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He later applied to the family court for unsupervised contact with the children, which was granted. Don't even bother trying. Mary says her children now "wake up sobbing, and I just reassure them that no-one is expecting them to stand up to their dad".
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She adds: "Nobody is saying that a child shouldn't have a relationship with their father. It just it needs to be healthy and safe. The BBC has learned that MPs from seven different parties have now come together to sign a letter to Justice Secretary David Gauke calling for an independent inquiry into the family courts "to establish the extent of the problem and if more fundamental reform is required".
The letter continues: "The lack of transparency in the family courts, while essential in maintaining the privacy of families and children, does not allow scrutiny and masks decisions that are made contrary to the interests of victims of domestic abuse, rape and violence - or their children". Labour's shadow policing minister, Louise Haigh MP, said it was "horrifying that even in proven cases of sexual assault, severe domestic abuse, rape, murder in some cases, men are still being encouraged and granted access to their child".
She added: "If they're a known risk to mother or child, then we need to assume that contact probably isn't best for the child and grant it only in certain circumstances. When there is a court-ordered contact, a parent can be at risk of being fined or going to prison if they fail to send their child on the unsupervised visit.
Barrister Charlotte Proudman, who specialises in cases involving violence against women, told the BBC she had witnessed a perception that mothers were preventing contact with fathers without good reason. The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service Cafcass said in a statement: "One of our most challenging professional tasks is to assess what level of parental involvement is safe and in the child's best interests, in cases where a parent has a history of domestic abuse.
A spokesperson for the UK judiciary said judges were "required to consider all the evidence put forward and to reconcile any conflicting interests at a time that they know is exceptionally stressful for all those involved.
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The Ministry of Justice said: "The welfare of the child is the paramount consideration of the family courts when making decisions about their upbringing". It added that it would "continue to explore" ways to improve how the justice system deals with domestic abuse.
For information and support, including sources of support for those affected by sexual violence and domestic abuse , visit the BBC's Action Line. Sir Kim Darroch steps down as Boris Johnson faces criticism for not fully backing him. UK selected England N.
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Media playback is unsupported on your device. Related Topics Family Domestic violence Children. More on this story. Video Role-play helps people to prepare for family court.
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Call for inquiry into abusive parents' access to children
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