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.

Non-molestation 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.

Occupation order

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.

Speak to an expert

    Other resources

    6 February 2024

    Top 10 Common Mistakes in the Divorce Journey


    Divorce is undeniably one of the most challenging life experiences. An emotional turbulence, accompanied by legal complexities, and a [...]

    Read more

    25 January 2024

    The Crucial Role of Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) in the Battle Against Dementia


    Dementia is a formidable adversary, affecting millions worldwide and presenting an array of challenges for both individuals and their [...]

    Read more

    Marwa Hadi did a first class job.  I would recommend her to anybody.

    Thank you very much Marwa.  I just wanted to say that your efficiency and helpfulness has been of great help to me through what has obviously been a very difficult time for me.  I would be happy to recommend your services to anyone else I know who finds themselves in this situation.

    Thank you so much for all your hard work and good solid advice along the way.  I am very pleased with the outcome and feel I can finally start to think about building a new life for me and the children.

    I just wanted to thank you for all your help. I really couldn’t have hoped for a better result and I was so worried. I can only thank you for your kindness. Your response to the pension report made excellent reading and I could tell that a lot of work had gone into it.

    I am very grateful for all the support you have provided me with over this very stressful time and you have always been utterly professional, thank you

    I would like to thank you for all the patience and assistance you have given me during this time and for getting me through to the end with my health, sanity and pension untouched

    Just a quick message to say thank you for all your help in resolving my divorce efficiently. You are a credit to your profession

    I just wanted to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt thanks to you for all your efforts over the last year. It has been a very stressful time to be and I’m glad that you managed to achieve what we set out to achieve in that I’m having contact with my daughter