As we explained here recently, if you wish to apply to the court for a child arrangements order, a prohibited steps order or a specific issue order then you will need to complete an application form known as ‘Form C100’.
But there is another form that you may also need to complete: the Form C1A.
So when do you need a Form C1A, and how do you complete it?
Sadly, domestic abuse is often a factor in applications for children orders, and when allegations of abuse are made the court is under an obligation to determine the truth of the allegations, and consider whether they should have a bearing upon whatever order the court makes.
Obviously, the court needs to be told about the abuse at an early stage in the proceedings, and this is where the Form C1A comes in. If the children have suffered from, or are at risk of suffering from, harm as a result of domestic abuse you should complete a Form C1A, setting out brief details of the abuse.
And it is important to note that the abuse does not have to have been directed at the child. Abuse of a parent can also be relevant, especially if it is witnessed by a child.
Turning to the form, one of the first things it requests from you is a contact telephone number. However, if you have suffered abuse from the other parent you may have changed your phone number and kept it secret from them, in order to protect yourself. In such a situation you should not give a number on the form, but rather complete a separate Form C8, which gives your contact details to the court, but keeps them private from the other party.
Perhaps the most important part of the form is section 2, in which you give details of the domestic abuse that you and the children have suffered. The form does not give you much space to do this, but don’t worry – you will be given an opportunity later in the proceedings to file a detailed statement and, if the case goes to a contested hearing, to give oral evidence in court.
So you should keep the details quite brief. But you should also keep them relevant. Minor incidents, or things that are unlikely to have a bearing upon the final order that the court makes should be omitted (although you can always refer to them later, if necessary).
A good rule of thumb when considering what incidents to mention is ‘first, last, and worst’. The court will want to know when the abuse began, whether it is continuing, and how bad it is. ‘First, last and worst’ will ensure that the court has this information, although it does not of course mean that other serious incidents should not also be mentioned.
Moving on, the other really important part of the form is section 5, in which you set out what you want the court to do about the abuse, and how you think it should affect any final order that the court makes.
So far as the latter is concerned, the most common effect of a finding of domestic abuse by the court is to restrict the amount of contact that the abusive parent has with the children. This can mean that the contact is supervised (for example at a contact centre), that it is restricted to indirect contact only (for example by telephone or email only), or that there is no contact at all – although this is quite unusual.
Lastly, if you are in fear of meeting the other party at court then you can request the court to take certain protective measures, in section 7 of the form. These include providing you with a separate entrance to the court, providing a protective screen for you in the courtroom so that the other party can’t see you, and even allowing you to give evidence via a video link.
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