Domestic Violence and Abuse
Nobody should be subjected to abusive behaviour or harassment from their partner or family. Abuse can take many forms from physical, emotional, psychological and financial abuse to coercive behaviour and stalking. Anyone can be affected by this, and statistics show that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will experience abusive behaviour at some point in their lifetime.
The Law is there to protect vulnerable people, and there are several ways in which help can be found. Often, asking for help can be the biggest hurdle. Victims of domestic abuse can often be socially isolated or conditioned to feel less worthy of help. All victims of abuse deserve support and the assistance of the Law. If you are in urgent danger or feel at risk of immediate harm then you should telephone 999 for help from the police.
Family Law Solicitors can also offer assistance through the Civil Courts. Under the Family Law Act 1996 there are two main types of Orders which can be obtained from the Court;
A Non-Molestation Order is an order from the Court prohibiting an associated person, the Respondent, from using or threatening violence against the Applicant. The Order can include a list of scenarios or behaviours that are to be prohibited such as;
- coming within a certain distance of the Applicant, their workplace or their home
- coming within a certain distance of a child's school
- communicating with the Applicant by phone or social media, or through third parties such as friends or relatives (except through solicitors).
An associated person can be a spouse, partner, civil partner or relative.
An application can be made as a matter of urgency and without giving the Respondent notice if necessary. Final Orders usually last for one year but can be made for longer or until further Order if necessary.
When a Non-Molestation Order is made a copy is sent to the local police station so they are also aware of it. A breach of a Non-Molestation Order is a criminal offence so it is very important the police are told immediately.
An Occupation Order excludes a person from a property that they are legally entitled to occupy. This could be because they are a joint owner or a joint tenant.
These applications may be necessary in cases of domestic violence where there is an immediate risk of harm to one of the people in the home and it is necessary for their safety to exclude the Respondent. Sometimes it is necessary to apply to the Court for an Occupation Order at the same time as applying for a Non-Molestation Order.
When considering the application, the Court employs the "balance of harm" test. This will consider who would be at greater risk of harm; the Respondent if he or she is excluded from the property or the Applicant if the Respondent is allowed to stay. Part of this test would be to look at the resources of each person and whether they can afford to live elsewhere or if there is anywhere else they can stay.
An Occupation Order is made for either a specified period of time or until further Order. The Court can also make an Order requiring the Respondent to continue to pay rent or mortgage.
Ultimately, the house would have to be dealt with and this may mean further Court action for an Order for Sale, Transfer of Tenancy or divorce proceedings.
There is still some public funding available to those who are a victim of domestic abuse. This can help pay towards your legal fees in obtaining an Order from the Court to protect you and your family.
In order to qualify for Legal Aid, evidence must be produced to show that you or your children have suffered or are at risk of suffering abuse. Evidence can include on ongoing police investigation against your ex partner, a letter from your GP or a letter from Children's Services.
There is also a financial calculation to see if you qualify on income and capital grounds.
A Legal Aid Solicitor can provide further advice about this.
How we can help
Our Family Solicitors can discuss with you all your available options in a confidential setting. Once you have all the information, you can then decide what you would like to do next.
We can help you to submit an application to the Court and support you through the proceedings. Hearings take place in the Family Courts, either before Magistrates or a District Judge, and are heard in private with only the parties and their legal representatives present.
If an application for a Non-Molestation Order or Occupation Order has been made against you, we can advise and assist you with those proceedings.
Charity support and useful helplines:
To find out more or discuss your individual requirements in further detail, contact us today on 01603 693500 or email us using the 'Make an enquiry' form. Appointments available at our Norwich, North Walsham and Sheringham offices.