Domestic violence, now often called ‘domestic abuse’, can include any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between spouses, civil partners, unmarried couples or family members. Domestic abuse can include, but is not limited to:
- Physical abuse – pushing, slapping, punching, intimidation
- Psychological abuse – harassment, pestering, shouting, controlling behaviour
- Sexual abuse
A person who is suffering from domestic abuse can seek help from various sources, including the Police, solicitors and organisations such as Refuge. They will often feel very vulnerable and have many questions about where they will live, how they will support themselves and what will happen to the children and whether social services will become involved.
If you are suffering or feel at risk of domestic abuse, you should contact the police and report the abusive behaviour and incidents. The police can then take action against your partner or spouse. This is a very big step and often the most difficult.
You can also seek completely confidential legal advice from a family solicitor about what steps you can take to leave your partner or spouse.
You could make an urgent application to the court to obtain a non-molestation order and/or an occupation order under the Family Law Act 1996. These are types of ‘injunction’.
A non-molestation order is a court order that prohibits a person from molesting another person and/or any children. ‘Molesting’ can include any form of domestic abuse, as described above. The order will make clear restrictions on what the other party cannot do, for example that the other party cannot visit the molested persons home or place of work. Breaching a non-molestation order is a criminal offence.
We would prepare the application for you and a witness statement setting out the incidents of molestation. We may advise you to apply for an occupation order at the same time. The court will look at all the circumstances including the need to secure the health (physical and mental), safety and wellbeing of you and any children. This is usually applied for without informing the other party (‘without notice’) and the judge will set a date for a future hearing when the other party will have an opportunity to defend the application, if they chose to do so.
An occupation order is a court order that regulates who lives at the family home. It is often used to allow one party to remain in the family home and to exclude the other party from that home where there has been domestic abuse.
There are different rules about who can apply for this order and there are also different types of occupation orders. For example, the court can order that a person be fully excluded from the home or the court could order that a person shall not enter a particular part of the home. The property involved must have been the family home or was intended to be the family home.
The court will apply a ‘balance of harm’ test and look at various factors, such as the housing needs and financial resources of the parties and any children, when considering whether to make this order and what it should contain.
We can help you by:
- Offering you confidential advice about your options and court orders available to you
- Advising you on your legal position and what to expect
- Issuing an emergency application for a non-molestation and/or occupation order
- Dealing with the other party and the court on your behalf
- Helping you through the court process and with court hearings
- Advising you on the next steps, such as separation or divorce
- Advising you of the likely costs involved and whether you may qualify for public funding