In many domestic violence cases, children suffer from the abuser’s aggression directly or indirectly by witnessing violence between adults. Different legal regulations are to be applied since the protection of child rights requires a different and more specific approach.

A child victim of domestic violence has the same right to obtain state protection, hold the perpetrator responsible for his or her actions and to receive compensation similarly to an adult victim of domestic violence. However, a child must be represented (e.g., for signing documents and submitting applications) by his/her legal guardian.

Removal from the family

In a situation where children are endangered by their legal representatives – the parents or a guardian, and thus there is no one representing the child’s rights and interests against the abuser, the child may be separated from the family if it is impossible to eliminate the risk for the child while it stays in the family. A child in danger may be placed in safety at a social, health care or educational institution or with a person who is safe for the child depending on the child’s needs and the situation. A court may separate a child from the parents only if damage to the interests of the child cannot be prevented by other measures. If leaving a child in the family endangers the health or life of the child, a local government or the Social Insurance Board may separate the child from the family before a court ruling is made. In such case the local government must promptly submit a petition to a court for restriction of the parent's right of custody with respect to the child.

Assistance to abuse victims

A child victim of domestic violence shall be provided with emergency assistance free of charge, in order for the child to regain their physical and mental health and to reintegrate into society. Upon assessing the child’s need for assistance, the child protection official or a person working with a child assesses the physical, medical, psychological, emotional, social, cognitive, educational and economic situation of the child, and the parenting skills of the person raising the child. General protection rules on the rights of a child victim shall be applied during any administrative, civil or criminal procedures. 

All persons who have knowledge of a child in need of assistance are required to notify the authorities, the local government, or the child helpline 116 111. The official having received the notice of a child in need of assistance is required to forward the notice immediately to the local government of the child’s residence entered in the population register. When providing assistance to a child in need, the principles of case management provided for in the Social Welfare Act are followed. When assessing the child’s need for assistance and during the provision of assistance, the local government must establish and document the opinion of the child and attach it to the case plan of the child.

Child protection & Human rights

In cases where a child has become a victim of domestic violence, similar violations of human rights may occur as in the case of adult victims.

Where state authorities have failed to take appropriate protective measures specifically designed to protect a child, a violation of the right to private and family life may occur. For example, the removal of a child from a family or granting, without the necessary due diligence to the custody rights of the other parent. 

There may be a violation of the right to a fair trial in cases where a child is involved in court proceedings related to domestic violence and the authorities have failed to ensure fair trial guarantees specifically designed to protect child victims. 


Last updated 15/11/2021