Nicola Harris
MSB Solicitors Liverpool
Nicola HarrisPartner
Law Society Family Law Panel member
Accredited Law Society Children Panel Member
Resolution Accredited Specialist Private Law and Children and Domestic Violence Panel Member

Addressing Domestic Violence And Drug Abuse:
Nicola Harris represented the mother of a family of 7 children aged between 3 months and 14 years old. The case involved serious domestic violence, alleged drug abuse, including habitual and daily cocaine use by parents, and physical chastisement toward the oldest children. The Care Proceedings were triggered by an allegation of the eldest child that he had been subjected to a physical assault by his father, witnessed by the mother. The mother was accompanied to all appointments by the father; and when he was denied access to interviews with Ourselves he became abusive.

All drug use and domestic violence was denied by the mother, she also minimised the alleged assault by the father against the child, and stated it was for the child’s own safety: he had been restrained by the father as he was trying to climb out of an upstairs window. The mother tested for high levels of cocaine but denied its use. Police logs indicated reports of verbal abuse, but no physical violence ever reported by the mother. It was looking inevitable, due to a blanket denial of all allegations and a failure to accept habitual drug use, that all 7 children would be accommodated outside the family, with the 3 youngest being placed for adoption.  The turning point  of the case came when the father subjected the mother to a violent assault and she fled the family home. She instructed us that she had been dishonest due to fear of repercussions from the father. She confirmed that he frequently assaulted her; that he had assaulted the child and she had to cover this up or he would have killed her; and that she was force-fed cocaine by the father, and if she declined, she would be subject to physical and verbal abuse. She was previously too frightened to let anybody know what had happened to her, but the risk of children never being returned to her care was enough to prompt her to be honest.  A Non-Molestation Order was applied for, and successfully obtained.

We had to be realistic as to the prospect of all children being returned to the mother. The elder 4 children were in foster care with plans for them to remain there and have contact  with the mother. The 3 youngest could have been adopted, therefore her case was to secure the return of the 3 youngest.This was achieved and the mother was awarded fortnightly contact with the 4  who were to remain in long-term foster care. The mother would, by her own admittance, never have coped with 7 children, so it was necessary to be realistic in terms of the prospect of success, long-term.

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