If you are being subjected to domestic abuse, there are a number of legal protections available to help you. These can be under criminal or civil law.
If you are physically assaulted, this is a criminal offence, and a criminal court has the power to impose penalties on your abuser, such as a fine or imprisonment. You can also seek an order from the family court, which will aim to prevent future abuse.
What to do if you are subjected to domestic abuse
You should seek help as soon as you can, which could be from the police or, where you do not believe you are in immediate danger, from a family law solicitor.
Obtaining an injunction
A solicitor will be able to apply for an injunction from a family court to prevent your abuser from coming near you or harming or harassing you.
This could be either a non-molestation order or an occupation order.
A non-molestation order aims to prevent the use or threat of physical violence or harassment or pestering or intimidation where you or your child are at risk of significant harm.
Your solicitor will be able to apply for a non-molestation order without giving notice to your abuser where necessary so that they are not aware of it until it is served on them. There will generally then be a hearing, which you will both attend and at which the court will decide on whether to make a final order and on what terms.
Alternatively, where notice of a non-molestation hearing is given to your abuser, you will both attend court, with the opportunity for your evidence to be challenged. Your solicitor will be able to advise you which option is appropriate in your situation.
A non-molestation order will contain conditions such as not allowing any violence, threats or intimidation, no contact by telephone or email and not permitting your abuser to contact your place of work.
If you live with your abuser, then you may need an occupation order to ensure your safety in the property.
The court could require them to leave the property or to confine themselves to only part of the property. It could also prevent them from coming within a certain distance of the property.
If you have been locked out of the property, then the order could require that you be allowed back in. The order can also deal with payment of the mortgage or rent and other bills.
In making a non-molestation order, the court will consider the housing needs of everyone involved, including any children, the financial resources of you both, your behaviour and that of your abuser and the effect that an order might have on all concerned.
Where necessary, the court can make both a non-molestation order and an occupation order.
Enforcing an injunction
Once you have an injunction, your abuser should abide by its terms. It is a criminal offence to breach a non-molestation order, which can result in a fine and/or a prison sentence of up to five years.
The Domestic Abuse Act 2021
A new Act has been made law to provide better protection for victims of abuse. The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 aims to raise awareness of the impact of domestic abuse on victims and their families and improve the effectiveness of the justice system. This will be done by providing better protection for victims as well as by bringing their abusers to justice.
Defining domestic abuse
For the first time, domestic abuse has been defined. It includes the following:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Violence or threats
- Controlling or coercive behaviour
- Economic abuse
- Psychological, emotional or other abuse
This means that domestic abuse does not have to be physical. Those who could carry out this type of abuse include anyone who is or was your spouse or civil partner, someone in an intimate relationship with you, even if you are not officially a couple, people who parent a child together and relatives. A child can be a victim of domestic abuse as well as an adult.
Protection from abuse under the Domestic Abuse Act 2021
Domestic Violence Protection Orders and Notices currently exist to deal with situations of domestic abuse.
A new system of notices and orders is being trialled to replace these and will be brought in across the UK if they are successful.
If you call the police because you have experienced domestic abuse, they will have the power to issue a Domestic Abuse Protection Notice. This could require your abuser to leave your home for up to 48 hours.
Your solicitor could also ask the court to issue a Domestic Abuse Protection Order. The order would prohibit your abuser from going to your home or place of work and could also require them to attend an assessment or programme to address their behaviour.
The police and certain third parties could ask the court for this type of order where they believe it is necessary to protect you.
Under the new legislation, the local authority will have a duty to provide support to victims of domestic abuse by providing safe accommodation for them and their children. Those needing housing because of domestic abuse should be prioritised.
Seeking help for domestic abuse
If you have experienced domestic abuse, it is important not to suffer alone. Help is available and the police, and family lawyers are able to use the law to protect you.
Abuse can worsen over time, and it is important to take steps to end it as soon as possible, particularly if you have children. In some cases, it is possible to deal with the situation without involving the police, should you wish to avoid this.
An expert family law solicitor with experience in dealing with domestic abuse situations will be able to advise you of your options.
Book a free 30-minute consultation with an expert domestic abuse lawyer
Our family law solicitors in Horsham are sympathetic, friendly and approachable. We understand how difficult it is to be in an abusive relationship, and we will step in quickly to put protection in place for you and your family.
We offer a free 30-minute consultation over the phone or via videoconference to discuss your circumstances and how we can help.
To arrange your free 30-minute consultation, please contact Marwa Hadi-Barnes today.