Family violence

Sadly, it's not uncommon for parents who are separating to find themselves in situations where physical confrontation, violence or abuse occurs. This is because emotions are likely to have been running high towards the end of the relationship. We call these situational confrontations.


However, there may have been violence or abuse present in your relationship that was part of a pattern of coercive or controlling behaviour. This is very different in nature to the kind of confrontations that occur as a reaction to the emotional and psychological pressure that may be present at the end of a relationship. We call this coercive controlling violence and abuse.


Situational confrontations

Situational confrontations can occur as you and your children's other parent go through the difficult process of separation. This can sometimes be just shouting and name calling but can also include acts of violence such as hitting, pushing and throwing things.


If you feel that any violence or abuse was not part of a pattern of controlling behaviour, but simply a result of the high emotions towards the ending of your relationship, it will still be possible to work together to reach agreements.


However, it's important that you find ways to ensure that violent or abusive confrontations don't occur again. Take active steps prevent it:


  • Think about what triggered the confrontations and whether confrontations are likely to occur again.
  • Think about your own mood and that of your children's other parent to help you work out the best way to proceed.
  • If you think a physical confrontation may occur in the future, find ways of communicating without meeting. Try letter, email or through a trusted friend or professional such as a mediator.
  • If you think that a meeting is possible but might end in a confrontation, again, think about asking a trusted friend or professional to help.
  • Think about whether meeting in a public place such as a cafe might reduce the likelihood of confrontation.
  • Make sure you don't try to communicate with each other under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Keep the possibility of any conflict well away from your children.
  • Learn ways to control angry feelings and frustration (see below)


Coercive controlling violence and abuse

Coercive controlling violence and abuse is part of dynamic in which there is a pattern of power and control exercised by one parent over the other.


This may include physical violence but may also include intimidation, emotional abuse, isolation, minimising, denying and blaming, use of children, asserting privilege, economic abuse, and coercion and threats


If you feel that any violence or abuse that was, or is, present in your relationship is part of a pattern of coercive or controlling behaviour, you should not attempt to reach private agreements with your child's other parent and must take steps to protect yourself and your children.


Trying to make private arrangements may put yourself or your children at risk of harm and any agreements that you do reach will not work for either you or your children.


It is important to seek specialist advice.


If you have any immediate fears about your safety or the safety of your children, you should contact the police.



If you are unsure about whether any violence or abuse you have experienced was part of a pattern of controlling behaviour or simply a result of high emotions towards the end of your relationship, please use our self-diagnosis tool here


Managing situational confrontations