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Domestic Abuse – How Family Lawyers Can Help Victims Or Potential Victims Over The Festive Season

While most of us are looking forward to the holidays, the season can be a stressful and worrying time for many. Factors such as financial concerns and higher alcohol consumption, combined with more time at home, can lead to an increase of incidents of domestic abuse during the festive period.

If you are a victim or a potential victim of domestic abuse, there are two main types of injunctions under the Family Law Act that you can apply for to protect yourself - non-molestation orders and occupation orders.

Non-Molestation Orders

You can apply for a non-molestation order against an ‘associated person’. The definition of ‘associated person’ is quite broad, and includes people who are related by past or present marriage, engagement, cohabitation, or through being biologically related, such as siblings.

A non-molestation order can prohibit the other person from carrying out physical, sexual, or psychological abuse, or harassment and pestering. There does not necessarily have to be physical violence involved. However, you will need to show that their behaviour is having an impact on you, and/or any affected children’s safety and wellbeing.

Ordinarily, when you make an application to Court, the respondent (other person) would be notified prior to any decision being made.  However, in cases where your/a child’s safety is at risk of immediate harm, the Court may make an initial order without telling the respondent. This is known as a ‘without notice’ application. Without notice applications can be an important tool because orders for protection can be obtained immediately, before the other party is aware of the Court proceedings. If a hearing is made without notice, there will be a second hearing where the respondent can tell the Court their side of the story, if they want to.

A non-molestation order will not give the respondent a criminal record. However, if they breach the order, the police will have the power to arrest them immediately. For this reason, non-molestation orders should be served on the local police force.

Occupation Orders

If you feel unsafe in your home, and the person who is making you feel unsafe has a right to be there (for example it is the marital home or the other person is a joint owner of the property) you can make an application to the Court for an occupation order. An occupation order can prevent someone from entering a property, or restrict their usage of the property, even if they would otherwise have a legal right to be there. The Court also has the power to make orders regarding payments of a mortgage for the period of time that the occupation order is in place.

To obtain an occupation order you must be the joint or sole owner/tenant of the home, the property has been yours and the other person’s home, and you are both ‘associated.’ Like a non-molestation order, the broad definition of being ‘associated’ applies.

You will need to provide a statement describing your reasons for keeping them out of the property. Generally, an applicant will need to show that it would be more dangerous for them or any relevant child if the respondent were to stay in the property than if they were removed.

An occupation order will usually last for 6-12 months. You can ask the Court to attach a power of arrest to the order so that the respondent is arrested if they breach the terms.

Next steps 

The above orders offer short-term solutions, which can be an essential place to start following the breakdown of a relationship where there has been domestic abuse. Once such an order is in place, you may then be thinking about next steps, such as arrangements for children, initiating divorce proceedings, and / or separating family finances.  Irwin Mitchell has a team of specialist family lawyers who can advise on all manner of family law issues.

Please always remember that if you are in an emergency situation, you should call the police.

The following resources may also be useful:

  • National Centre for Domestic Violence offers assistance obtaining emergency injunctions. Tel: 0800 970 2070 / Website
  • The Men’s Advice Line run by Respect is a confidential helpline specifically for male victims. Tel: 0808 801 0327 /Email
  • Refuge’s free 24/7 domestic abuse helpline. Tel:0808 2000 247 
  • If you are a victim of domestic abuse, you may be eligible for Legal Aid.