Family Law solicitors have to deal with a lot of sensitive and emotional cases. The most demanding situations for a family solicitor always involves children. Here are some new more problematic issues facing them today.
Twofold increase in Child-Parent Abuse since 2016
This isn’t the usual parent or caretaker abusing their children as you might expect, but of children being abusive or violent towards their parents. According to the BBC, the number of reports of children attacking their parents have doubled in the past three years. At the same time spans, prosecutions dropped by 31%. Why?
For the first part, for a long time now domestic violence by children to their parents have not been widely recognized as a crime. Parents too generally do not wish to have their children possess a criminal record at such a young age. Parents are generally believed to have an outsized power over the lives of their children, and attempts to discipline such disturbed behavior may in itself be falsely reported as abuse.
There are children who, for a host of reasons, come at their parents and family with remorseless lethal intent and fabricate stories to get them in trouble. Many fear they will not be believed.
“The figures are alarming but they don’t surprise us,” said Tom Madders, from the mental health charity Young Minds. “When a young person is behaving in this way towards their parents there is a high likelihood that there is some sort of mental distress involved and that young person is communicating that they do need some support and too often that support is too hard to access.”
“People are reaching out for support and not getting it and often having to resort to calling the police as the only line of support.”
Parents may feel humiliated, that it’s their failure to instill respect and deference to their children. Counsel must be careful not to assign to evil and malice what may come from actual mental illness and an inability to comprehend right and wrong. If indeed the child is fully cognizant of the meaning of their actions, what they are doing would be rightfully considered a crime. These parents are suffering and rightfully deserve help and not mockery.
While there have been increased reports, acknowledging that this is a type of abuse, many parents and welfare workers believe that children and teenagers who act out like this require a special sort of help. It is estimated that thousands of families are experiencing this form of abuse, and family law solicitors are now open to giving people a means of support and relief from their mental distress without their only recourse being to call the police in fear for their lives. Parents who suffer this problem still typically do not wish to lose their children.
Many family law solicitors find it an eerie situation to have to defend parents from their young children instead of the usual case of family abuse. They must act to protect both sides due to the wishes of the victims themselves.
Increasing support for children most at risk of sexual exploitation
This is the more expected form of family and caretaker abuse. A recent study was made to examine the outcome of social workers who worked with children and teens most at risk of sexual exploitation. It also examined the outcomes of interventions.
One in three young people in the study experienced sexual abuse at some point in their childhood. Almost two-thirds experienced emotional abuse, and more than half experienced physical violence or neglect before being placed into care.
Among the factors most responsible for increased risk of sexual exploitation was:
Understandably a far greater proportion of female children are under risk.
Being moved around
Moving frequently from accommodation to accommodation, or having an unstable housing situation, greatly increases the risk of experiencing CSE. It also makes it more likely that the young person would not end up in fulfilling education or employment later in life.
Repeated short-term interventions lead to negative outcomes
Surprisingly, placing certain young people in priority and quickly responded to when engaging in high-risk behavior did not provide as positive an impact as was hoped but instead lead to negative attention-seeking behaviors. With many different adults on their case instead of some they can build trust with, they felt like they were part of a revolving door of people and projects and interventions.
Positive relationships with their peers is a protective factor
Young people who have positive relationships with others in their age are significantly less at risk of being sexually exploited.
Having a supportive adult in their life is still gives the most positive impact
Having a reliable presence spending time with a child, supporting their confidence and self-esteem, is the form of support that is most likely to reduce their chances of having further issues with alcohol, drug use, and requiring intervention by social services for themselves or their children later in their lives.
Dr. Hallet of Cardiff University’s School of Social Sciences stated:
“A less predictable home environment can have huge consequences for children. Without a stable home life, feelings of rejection and insecurity are exacerbated. For multiple complex reasons, it leads to them becoming more susceptible to this form of abuse.”
Family solicitors recognize that foster care or being placed in a home is not by itself a solution for bad parenting. Some children react better to being placed with a new family, others being placed with their peers, and others still simply wish for their families to stop hurting. Interventions that are more comprehensive rather than more frequently are the best suited to protect the child.
Doubling numbers of same-sex couple families in three years
Since 2016, the number of cohabiting couple families have also grown by 50%. The number of families in the UK rose from 17.7 million in 2008 to 19.1 million in 2018. While two-thirds of all families are traditional married and civil partners, cohabiting couple families are the second-largest family type at 17.9% and single parent families at 15%.
The issue is two-fold. First, cohabiting couple families represent a trend of cohabiting instead of marriage or to cohabit before marriage. The other is that there is no such thing as a common-law marriage in the UK – and so cohabiting couples do not have the same legal rights as married couples, which may have complications for their shared property, savings or possessions, and the care of their children.
“We’re also generally seeing increasing acceptance of same-sex relationships so people may feel more comfortable to say they are living together,” said Sophie Sanders, Office for National Statistics (ONS) head of demographic analysis.
Family law solicitors are looking with deep interest at the proposed The Cohabitation Rights Bill, which is still in the early stages of passing through the Parliament.