Keeping kids safe when you have a protection order

Provincial Court

How can I keep my children safe if I have a protection order against their parent?

It’s important that children not live in a household where they can witness or experience abuse. Getting a protection order and removing a violent partner from the home is an important step in keeping your children safe.

Include your children in the protection order

You can include your children in the protection order if you think the other parent might harm them. The protection order only protects the people named in the order.

Include parenting time in the protection order

If you think your children will be safe with their other parent, you can tell the court that you want a protection order that allows the children to have parenting time with their other parent. Be prepared to propose a plan for parenting time at your protection order hearing. The judge can then incorporate the plan into your protection order.

  • Your proposed plan might include how you will arrange parenting time for the other parent. For example, the protection order might say that the other parent must not have contact with you except by text, email, or through a third party for the purpose of arranging parenting time.
  • Your plan should also consider how the children will go from one parent to the other safely. It might be complicated to arrange this during COVID-19, with many places being closed and the need to limit close contact with people who aren’t part of your household.
  • If it’s not possible to have a third person pick up and drop off the children, your protection order can specify that that your partner can have parenting time if it’s arranged in advance in writing (by text or email) and that exchange of the children will happen in a public location.
If it isn’t possible to arrange in-person parenting time during COVID-19, discuss other ways of keeping the children connected to the other parent, such as with phone or Skype calls or playing online video games together. You might both have to go back to court when things are more normal, each with a proposed plan for parenting time.

Make a safety plan for yourself and your children

Making a safety plan helps everyone reduce their risk of more violence. It also helps everyone know what to do if your abusive partner does becomes violent.

For you

The guided pathway at MyLawBC can help you assess your level of risk and make a plan for different situations. It will also give you a list of places where you can find more help to make a plan to live safely.

VictimLinkBC provides information and referral services to all victims of crime and immediate crisis support to victims of family violence, including making a safety plan. It is a toll-free, confidential, multilingual telephone service available across BC and the Yukon 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call 1-800-563-0808 or send an email to VictimLinkBC@bc211.ca.

For your children

Children need to know how to recognize risk, keep themselves safe from abuse and violence, and have access to a phone and someone to call if they need help.

A child’s safety plan should also include having someone to talk to if they feel scared or worried about their safety for any reason. Children might not want to talk to one parent about the other parent because they don’t want to get anyone in trouble. Your child might be able to talk to a teacher, school counsellor, grandparent, or a family friend. Or they might prefer to use a children and youth counselling service such as the Youth Against Violence Line or the Prevention, Education, Advocacy, Counselling and Empowerment (PEACE) program for children and youth experiencing violence.

Keep the children safe if the situation changes

If you have court orders for parenting time, you should follow the orders as long as it is safe and possible to do so.

The risk of violence may increase if your situation or the other parent’s situation or their behaviour changes. (For example, they lose their job, have financial problems, have mental health problems, or have access to weapons.)

If you think you or your children are at risk of violence from your partner, you must get legal help immediately. A lawyer can help you assess the risk and advise what steps you can take to protect yourself and your children. If you are in danger, call 911.

Get legal help

If you can't afford a lawyer, you can get legal help in other ways, including:

Staff at Justice Access Centres in Nanaimo, Surrey, Victoria, and Vancouver can also answer your questions and help you fill out forms. Call someone who can help or find a nearby office.

Get more information

Legal Aid BC has several free publications to help you keep yourself and your children safe from your abusive partner. You can download a PDF to read on a computer or device, or you can order a printed copy by mail.

If someone is is immediate danger, call the police

Call 911 or your local police emergency number if you're afraid for your safety or your children's safety. Don't wait. 

Help is available

Organizations are here to help you in COVID-19

Legal Aid BC

VictimLink BC 

Battered Women's Support Service