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Unfortunately domestic abuse can be a consequence of or cause for relationship breakdown. Sadly for some, it is part of everyday life.
It happens to all sorts of people in all walks of life.
Domestic abuse does not just mean physical violence. It includes, for example, threats, emotional control, financial or sexual abuse.
We realise that this will be a horrendous time for you and the need for sympathetic, supportive but very clear, sound and realistic advice is paramount. All our family lawyers all have a great deal of experience in this area.
Under The Family Law Act 1996 applications can be made to the court for protection in the form of Non-Molestation and/or Occupation orders . These remedies are not limited to husbands and wives or those in a civil partnership, they extend to those who live together (or who used to) of either sex, in same-sex or heterosexual relationships. It also applies to those who are parents of a child together or who are engaged in family court proceedings. An application can also be made to protect a child.
These are powerful orders. Breach of a Non-Molestation order is in itself a criminal offence punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment. It also constitutes contempt of court which is again punishable by imprisonment.
In cases of real urgency where there is a risk of significant harm, the Court has the power to make an initial order without the other party (the “Respondent”) having notice of it. The order must then be personally served on that party and he or she is then immediately bound by it. The Court will then list a full hearing at the earliest opportunity so that the Respondent can make his or her representations and it will be decided whether the order should continue.
In urgent cases, it is often possible to get an application before the court on the same day.
Whilst there is no guarantee of what the outcome of an application to the court might be, we are able to give realistic guidance based on our extensive experience in these areas.
For cases which do not fall under the Family Law Act – for example harassment by a neighbour, colleague, employer or even a stranger – protection may be available under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. Originally enacted to deal with “stalkers”, the Act prohibits a course of conduct (i.e. two or more instances) which the person exhibiting the behaviour knows or ought to know (using the yardstick of a “reasonable” person) amounts to harassment of the other. If an injunction order made under the Protection from Harassment Act is breached then the court will decide whether imprisonment is appropriate.
We are happy to discuss your circumstances without any commitment to action being taken. Sometimes just knowing what your options are can help. As with all our first interviews, the first meeting is free of charge and obligation. If you have an urgent domestic abuse issue, we will do our utmost to offer you a same or next day appointment.