What is a safety plan and when might you need one?
It’s important to make a safety plan if family violence might be an issue in a separation.
There are two situations in family law that might require a safety plan.
The Ministry of Children and Family Development can put safety plans in place. It is also possible to develop one yourself. A safety plan should ensure that family members are safe when leaving a situation of domestic abuse.
MCFD Safety Plan
If the police respond to a domestic dispute with children present, the Ministry of Children and Family Development will be contacted.
There are also times when someone reports that a child is need in of protection to the Ministry.
There are incremental levels of involvement that the Ministry can have with a family. The first being to draw up a safety plan with all or some of the family members. This is the lowest level of involvement the Ministry can have. It is a co-operative attempt to put safety members in place to protect children.
Usually the social worker assigned to the family will draw up terms with the family member. These terms could range from both parties going to counselling to one parent leaving the home and having no contact with the children for a period of time.
The terms of the safety plan will be as restrictive or as permissive as the social worker feels is necessary to protect the children.
Ministry safety plans are put in place for a specific period of time; after which the situation is reassessed. The idea being that the family needs a little guidance on how to decrease the threat to the children. If the terms of the safety plan are not followed, the Ministry could remove the children from the home.
Personal Safety Plan
When leaving a relationship, it is always good to have a plan. When there is a concern for domestic violence, this plan can become even more important.
The priority in any family law case is safety of both family members and children. Lawyers can divide up property and get orders for support, but if a family member is not safe while we do that – none of our work is worth anything.
We see lots of reports of domestic violence in the media and it is an undisputed fact that domestic partner deaths make up a large proportion of homicides each year.
Leaving a relationship is generally painful and difficult. Emotions are high and people do not always act as expected. For the most part both parties can navigate this emotionally difficult terrain with professionals.
However if you are leaving an abusive relationship it is important to have a clear plan for when you are going to leave, where you intend on staying and how you are going to afford the financial consequences of leaving.
Creating the plan
A trusted friend, counselor or other professional can help with the creation of a personal safety plan. It is a good idea to share copies of the plan with family members or other trusted friends.
One of the most important things for anyone leaving an abusive relationship to consider, after personal safety, is a way to ensure that they can financially support themselves and pay for any litigation that may need to take place.
I often work with my clients to determine a way to hide away savings so that they don’t feel out of options if it becomes necessary to go to court to get orders for support or for children. It is a harsh reality that abusers will try to keep the abuse going through all available avenues, including the court systems if they feel that they can get away with it.
It is essential that the at risk family members are safe and feel safe. That they have somewhere to go that will enable them to move forward. After that, it is also important that an at risk family member have some financial means to support themselves and to pay for any litigation that is necessary to protect themselves and the children.
Leaving a relationship is difficult, adding on the element of abuse makes it seem like an insurmountable task. There are a number of supports available to make sure that you and your children are protected.
We will discuss safety plans with you when we are talking to you about your separation. Call us if you have concerns about your safety and we will help you work out a safety plan.
The John Howard Society offers support services for men.June 11, 2020 10:48 pm