The welfare of the child is the court’s paramount concern when making any decision about their upbringing, including with whom the child is to live or spend time. In all cases where a parent applies to the family court for a child arrangements order, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) in England and Cafcass Cymru in Wales undertake safeguarding checks with the police and relevant local authority children’s services. Relevant information about risk, including from domestic abuse, is reported to the court in writing prior to the first hearing to inform safe decision-making.
In determining the child’s welfare needs the court will apply the factors set out in the ‘welfare checklist’ in the Children Act 1989. One of those factors concerns any harm the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering, which would include any harm from witnessing domestic abuse.