The Problematic Pro-contact Model in the Family Court

The Justice Lark
5 min readNov 15, 2023
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Across Western Societies, a predominant belief prevails in family courts: that maintaining contact with non-residential parents, typically fathers, is inherently beneficial for children.

This pro-contact ideology has become deeply entrenched, often overshadowing pressing concerns about child safety and wellbeing.

In my experience, this pro-contact culture often leads to the marginalisation of significant issues, including domestic violence and child abuse.

The underlying assumption is that any opposition to continued fathering, except in proven cases of physical or sexual violence, stems from implacable hostility rather than legitimate protective concerns.

This perspective not only fails to recognise the complexities of family dynamics but also risks the safety of children and the aggrieved parent.

In many instances, the unyielding belief in the benefits of contact with fathers leads to the overlooking of safeguarding concerns.

Even when children express experiences of violence, these are often sidelined in favour of preserving paternal relationships.

This trend is alarming, as it systematically undermines the voices and safety of those most vulnerable.

The Ongoing Violence in Post-separation Contact

The simple fact is that abusers often use contact as a means to exert power, not only over their children but also as a continued form of coercion against their former partners.

This manipulation can range from overt aggression during custody exchanges to subtle emotional abuse, with children often caught in the crossfire.

For victims of domestic abuse, both adults and children, being compelled to interact with their abuser can be traumatising.

This trauma is then compounded when courts, driven by a pro-contact agenda, dismiss concerns about safety and psychological wellbeing.

A critical flaw in the pro-contact model is the assumption of parental equality, which fails to account for the fact that not all parents, especially those with a history of violence, are equally equipped to provide a safe and…

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The Justice Lark

Passionate writer and researcher focused on promoting justice and equity, with emphasis on issues related to gender-based violence, trauma & mental health.