Many abusive relationships begin life with a flattering display of love and affection, which can then deteriorate into unreasonable jealousy and possessiveness, often leading to abusive and controlling behaviour that escalates over time.
Domestic abuse includes any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse. This can be physical, sexual, emotional or financial.
Controlling behaviour makes a person feel subordinate or dependent. Often the abuser will achieve this by isolating their victim from sources of support, exploiting their resources for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence or regulating their everyday behaviour.
Coercive behaviour is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten.
Domestic abuse can happen to men and women. The Crime Survey for England and Wales, for the year ending March 2022, estimated that 5% of adults (2.4 million people aged 16 years and over) experienced domestic abuse that year (1.7 million female and 699,000 male victims).
The Crime Survey shows that sadly lots of people suffer from domestic abuse. Suffering from domestic abuse is nothing to be ashamed of and it is always important to seek assistance; even if you think that it might be at a level that ‘isn’t that bad’ or ‘bad enough’. No matter the level or form of abuse, it is always worth talking to a professional, such as one of our family lawyers, for advice and help.
If you think you may be experiencing domestic abuse or you are at all concerned for your safety or the safety of your children, domestic abuse solicitors can take fast and effective legal steps that can protect you.
How can our domestic abuse solicitors help?
Have you been a victim of domestic abuse? Are you concerned for yours or your family’s safety? If so, you can speak confidentially to our specialist domestic abuse lawyers who can put procedures into place to ensure that you are protected. You may not even realise that you have been a victim of domestic abuse. The Government updated the definition in the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. The Government defines domestic abuse as:
“Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can include, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse:
- Violent or threatening behaviour
- Financial or economic abuse
- Controlling or coercive behaviour
If you fear for your safety you must call the police. If your abuser is arrested then bail conditions put on them could offer you protection, or a Domestic Abuse Protection Order may be put in place to do the same thing. Alternatively, you can obtain an injunction against your abuser. We can advise you on whether your case is suitable to apply for an injunction. If you are unable to obtain an injunction under the Family Law Act then you may be able to pursue a civil injunction and we’ll refer you to our colleagues who deal with this.
Our team of domestic abuse lawyers is experienced and sympathetic; we can make an emergency application to court if we need to act quickly to keep you safe.
Where a client is at risk of abuse our advice will usually be that an application for a non-molestation order should be made. This order prevents the abuser from molesting you or your child. Molestation covers violence, harassment and threatening behaviour. Depending on your circumstances this can limit how close your abuser can come to you and your property and whether they’re allowed to contact you in any way. Where the parties live in the same house the application may be made together with an application for an occupation order so that the other party is not allowed to re-enter the property.
You can apply for a non-molestation order against an “associated person”, this includes spouses, ex-spouses, civil partners, ex-civil partners, cohabitees, former cohabitees, various family members and persons with whom you have, or have had, an intimate relationship for a significant duration.
In urgent cases, for instance, if the applicant is in immediate danger, it may be possible to obtain such an order ‘without notice’. Where an application is made on a ‘without notice’ basis a hearing takes place before the other party is aware that an application has been made. If the application is successful the court will make an interim non-molestation order.
Commonly, a non-molestation order will prevent the other party using or threatening violence against the applicant, or intimidating, harassing or contacting (directly or indirectly) the applicant.
Where one party wishes for the other to leave the family home, or where they have been refused access to the property by the other, an application for an occupation order can be made. This order can give you the right to occupy your home and exclude the abuser. The order can also deal with who has to pay the rent or mortgage on the property. To do this you must have the right to occupy the property. This isn’t simply a case of whether or not you’re a joint owner/tenant, but our specialist lawyers have all the information to help you. The court has a wide range of powers when considering an occupation order application. These include excluding one party from the property, allowing the applying party the right to remain in the property or part of the property and regulating both or either of the parties’ occupation on the property. Occupation orders can also be made against the applying party’s family members.
Such applications can be made initially ‘without notice’. However, such applications are only likely to be granted in exceptional circumstances, given that they effectively deprive a person of their home without the opportunity to respond to the allegations made against them. If the application is successful an interim occupation order will be made. This must be served upon the other party and is usually effective until the parties return to court. The second hearing is usually listed a few days after the first.
The court will take a wide range of factors into account when deciding whether to make an occupation order and not make an occupation order based simply on an unpleasant atmosphere in the house. The factors the court considers include, but are not limited to:
- The housing needs and housing resources of each of the parties and any relevant child or children;
- The parties’ respective financial situations;
- The likely effect of either making or not making an order on the health, safety and wellbeing of the parties or any child;
- The conduct of the parties.
The following websites can offer more information and advice on domestic abuse:
Please get in touch with our team today so we can help protect you and offer domestic abuse legal advice. It is important that you act quickly if you feel your safety is at risk.