12. Child contact
Across the board, services reported similar trends relating to challenges experienced around child contact in cases of domestic abuse. Services reported that, in some cases, parents who had been advised to shield were experiencing conflict over child contact as they felt unsafe to facilitate contact despite court orders/informal agreements. There were continued reports of domestic perpetrators socialising with friends and family in different households and thus exposing their child/children to other people during contact visits. In some cases, perpetrators were communicating their activities to their ex-partner, causing high levels of stress and anxiety, and in some cases this prompted mothers to stop contact.
Services have reported a range of abusive behaviours apparently specific to lockdown related to conflict over chid contact.A consistent trend, reported across a number of different areas in Scotland, related to perpetrators asking children to show them round the house during video-contact. Services and clients perceived this as a means of extending their abuse by monitoring the victim and/or establishing where they live. There were some reports of abuse, mainly verbal abuse although a small number of reports of physical assaults, taking place during handovers, particularly in cases where handover was usually facilitated by third parties such as schools. In the latter weeks of lockdown, a number of services reported that women were facilitating child contact outwith the conditions of agreements/orders, in order to placate perpetrators and manage abuse.
Services reported that guidance and legal advice from solicitors in family court cases was very varied, particularly for those who are not in shielded groups. Some solicitors provided that clients may stop contact if they have concerns the child will be exposed to the virus, and in other cases solicitors advised clients to facilitate contact regardless of identified risks.