Domestic abuse - what protection can the Family Court offer?
COVID19 has without a doubt impacted every single one of us in one way or another. The recent government announcement of ‘lockdown’ is inevitably going to pose a significant risk to women, men and children experiencing domestic violence and abuse. For many of us, home is, and should be, our 'safe place', but we realise that household isolation will be used as a tool of coercive and controlling behaviour by abusers and it will shut down vital routes to safety and support for victims.
In light of the current pandemic, many individuals may find themselves in volatile situations and abusers will be using isolation to further coerce and control their victim. Being isolated may heighten emotions and it may be that this is the first time that you experience some form of domestic violence and abuse, but it certainly should not be ignored.
The Home Secretary Priti Patel has confirmed that domestic abuse victims will still be allowed to leave home, even under the current lockdown restrictions in a recent newspaper article.
What should I do if I am experiencing domestic abuse?
In the first instance we would advise that you seek support. If you or your children are in immediate danger, then you must call the police immediately. It is so important to seek help from a victim support service who can provide invaluable ongoing support.
Women’s Aid have formulated a self-help guide for victims to take note of during the Coronavirus pandemic.
The Dyn Project has been formulated specifically to support men that are experiencing domestic violence and we would urge you to seek support should you need to.
How can I protect myself and my family?
This is where we, as professionals, can help. If you consider yourself to be a victim of domestic violence and abuse, we can apply for a Non-Molestation Order on your behalf to prevent your partner/ex-partner from using or threatening violence against you or your children.
What is a Non-Molestation Order?
A Non-Molestation Order is a type of injunction, granted by the family court, that can be sought by a victim of domestic abuse against their abuser. It is aimed at stopping any type of harassment, intimidation, or threatening behaviour towards not only you, but your children also. If such order is breached, it is considered an arrestable criminal offence punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment.
How can I apply for a Non-Molestation Order?
Your solicitor will complete and submit a specific application alongside a statement in support of your case which will detail the incidents that have occurred. The court will have to be satisfied on the balance of probabilities that you will be at risk of harm should the court not make the order.
In circumstances where you are at risk of immediate harm, it may be appropriate to apply for a Non-Molestation Order on a ‘without notice’ basis which would allow for the order to be made in the absence of the abuser which would reduce the risk of harm whilst the application is considered by the court.
What if I live with my abuser?
Very often victims of domestic abuse will be living with their abuser and they may be too scared to ask them to leave, or they may be worried that they may be faced with homelessness should they leave the family home. In this instance, an Occupation Order can be applied for alongside a Non-Molestation Order.
An Occupation Order deals with who has the right to occupy the family home and the court have the powers to exclude somebody from the family home. The court’s duty is to balance the harm which will be suffered by the applicant (the victim) or child if the order is not made.
Will I be eligible for Legal Aid?
In order to be eligible for Legal Aid certain criteria needs to be satisfied. A means and merits test will be carried out to ascertain whether you are eligible or not.
This link to our blog Legal Aid - what is it and do I qualify for it? should provide all relevant information with regard to obtaining Legal Aid.
It is really important to engage with victim support services as this will assist us in obtaining Legal Aid on your behalf.
How can I make discrete contact?
We appreciate that it may be difficult to find an opportunity to contact us discretely, especially during the current pandemic and being on ‘lockdown’. You can of course email us directly using this email and we will respond to your email as soon as we possibly can and further arrangements can be made. Your enquiry will remain confidential at all times.
Alternatively, you can contact our offices on 01633 242526 and a member of our family team will be able to assist you.
We would urge you to contact us immediately should you be experiencing any form of domestic abuse. You do not need to suffer in silence, especially during such unprecedented times. Our experienced family solicitors are here to help you.