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Domestic abuse and non-molestation Injunctions

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What is Domestic Abuse?

Domestic abuse takes many forms. It may involve physical and sexual violence, emotional, psychological and financial abuse, coercive and controlling behaviour, gaslighting, threats of violence towards you or others, isolating you from family and friends, derogatory/humiliating comments, harassment and online abuse (including revenge porn).  Forced marriage and female genital mutilation are also examples of domestic abuse. 

Most people enter a relationship and/or marriage expecting it to last and it can be hard to admit something is wrong.  Your partner may act out of character and you make allowances for them whilst feeling confused as to why it is happening.  You may feel you are to blame and try to make things right, or feel lonely, confused, frightened or ashamed.  The thought of leaving can be frightening.  You may not consider you are a victim of domestic abuse.

The effects of abuse can be very serious causing the victim mental, physical and emotional harm. 

Who can I contact for support?

Domestic abuse is a criminal offence. If you are suffering from abuse you should report it to the police or obtain confidential advice from a specialist support group:

  • Refuge - 0808 2000 247 or www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk - women

Women’s Aid – www.womensaid.org.uk 

ManKind - 0182 3334 244 

  • Galop - 0800 999 5428 or help@galop.org.uk - LBGT+
  • Karma Nirvana – 0800 5999 247 – forced marriages/honour crimes 

For a local service, Worth Services provide a 24 hour helpline and can be contacted on 07834 968539/0330 222 8181. DomesticAbuseServicesCentral@westsussex.gov.uk has lots of information on its website.

IF YOU ARE AT IMMINENT RISK OF HARM DIAL 999 FOR URGENT POLICE ASSISTANCE

What can I do?

You can seek assistance through the Family Court.  If you are suffering from domestic abuse, harassment, threats or intimidation you can apply for an injunction to help protect you.

There are two types of injunctions under the Family Law act 1996:

  1. A non-molestation order
  2. An occupation order

Non-Molestation Order

A non-molestation order prohibits usually a cohabiting or ex partner or spouse from using or threatening violence against you and/or your children. It can also prohibit you from being intimidated, harassed or pestered by your partner or spouse.  The order will list what your partner or spouse (the respondent) is prohibited from doing, depending on the type of abuse you are being subjected to.

The order can last for either a specified period of time or indefinitely. Breach of a non-molestation order is a criminal offence and the police can arrest someone who breaches an order.

Those who can apply for a non-molestation order are:-

  • Former and current spouses
  • Civil partners and cohabitants
  • Persons who have agreed to marry one another
  • Relatives
  • People living in the same household
  • The parents of a child
  • Those who have been in intimate personal relationships of a significant duration

Occupation Order

An occupation order states who can occupy your family home or regulate defined parts of it. It can also restrict your partner or spouse from entering the surrounding area of your home and can impose obligations to pay mortgage or rental payments, maintenance of your home and council tax. The order usually lasts for 6 or 12 months but can be renewed.

Breach of an occupation order is not a criminal offence, but a power of arrest can be attached to the order which permits the police to arrest the respondent if they are in breach.

Those who are entitled to apply include:

  • Former or current spouses
  • Civil partners or cohabitants

What is the procedure for an injunction?

An application for an injunction is made by completing a form (FL401) and preparing a witness statement which should provide full details of the abuse that has taken place and detail any imminent risk of harm.  We are able to prepare both of these documents for you and submit them to the court. 

If an application is made without notice, either because of the seriousness of the abuse that has happened and/or the risk of imminent serious harm, an order could be made in the absence of your partner or spouse.

Your partner or spouse will only be bound by the terms of the order made by the court once he/she has been served with the order, your application and the statement which supports your evidence. 

Practical Tips – carefully plan your exit

It is important for you to think about your exit plan. If you consider there is a real risk that you or a dependent child will be subjected to serious harm, how would you obtain urgent help?

  1. Have you spoken to a trustworthy friend or family member?
  2. Where would you go?
  3. Would you need to flee to a safe house outside your local area, eg. a. refuge?
  4. Do you need legal advice to obtain urgent court orders (our contact details are below)?
  5. Have you made a note (preferably not on your phone if there is a risk it may be confiscated) of important telephone numbers (family members/friends, your GP, women’s support groups, taxi firms)?
  6. Have you make a note of any important log in details?
  7. Have you placed important documents and items (eg your passport, driving licence, bank statements, money, children’s red books, medication (yourself and children) and any other important items) in an easily accessible place should there be a need for you and your children to leave in an emergency?  Or with a trusted (but not mutual) friend or neighbour.
  8. Have you made a plan on how you will actually leave? If you have a car, are the keys easily accessible?  Do you have numbers for taxi firms if you do not have or are not able to use a car?
  9. Is there anyone who could assist you confidentially?
  10. Teach your children to dial 999 in an emergency and what they should say (names, address, telephone number).
  11. Plan how you would deal with any crisis situations and rehearse how to get yourself and your children away safely.  Is there a trusted neighbour who could contact the police if they see/hear any sounds of a violent attack?  If you fear your partner is about to harm you, try to get to an area where there is an exit and avoid the kitchen or garage where there could be potential weapons or a bathroom where you could become trapped.
  12. If you are researching support online, remember to delete your browser history.

When putting things together you must do so carefully, without risking members of your household becoming suspicious. So only take steps that are absolutely necessary. Your safety is extremely important as is your children’s as they are relying on you.

How we can help you

We can assist you with making an application to the court for a Non Molestation Injunction and/or an Occupation Order whilst providing you with support and guidance through the process.  We understand you are experiencing a very stressful and emotional time and will work proactively yet sympathetically to help you obtain the protection and security you need.

If you wish to discuss any of the issues or would like advice on your situation please contact Alison Cole, our Family Paralegal, to arrange a consultation by email: alison.cole@stevensdrake.com or telephone: 01293 596947.

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