Domestic abuse

Domestic abuse is when someone close to you, often your spouse or partner, causes you physical, social, mental, financial or emotional harm. The violence and abuse can be actual or threatened and can happen once every so often or on a regular basis.

Protecting your children

In domestic abuse and addiction situations you may try to shield your children from what is happening by playing it down or not talking about it.

The truth is that most children are aware of the abuse. As many as 90% of children are in the same room or in the next room when domestic abuse occurs.

You may hang on to the hope that the behaviour of the abusing parent will eventually change and work to keep the peace instead of protecting yourself and your children. When this happens, you put yourself and your children at enormous risk. Even when things improve for a time, significant change can only occur if the offending parent has acknowledged the problem and is actively seeking professional help.

Your first priority should be the safety of yourself and your children. In many cases, this means involving the police and getting the protection of the legal system. A Resolution specialist lawyer can help you.

You should tell your solicitor if the other parent has threatened you, hurt you physically or sexually, controlled or isolated you or has behaved in an emotionally abusive way towards you.

Your solicitor will be able to advise you about getting an injunction, which would prevent further abuse or stop the other parent from coming to your home. Your solicitor can also advise you about making arrangements for your children and the other parent spending time together that do not expose either you or the children to these risks.

You may be eligible for legal aid for injunction proceedings, but if your income or capital is above a certain limit, you would have to pay a contribution.

As well as physically protecting children, it is very important that you offer emotional support to help them cope with difficult situations involving domestic abuse and addiction. Often children involved in these types of situation have mixed feelings about the other parent. Some may feel deeply responsible for a parent’s behaviour, while others may feel conflicted and worry about betraying one or both parents.

Getting legal protection

If you want to get legal protection you can apply to the civil court for an injunction order. An injunction order can provide a breathing space for you to recover and make decisions about the future. It can prohibit further abuse and exclude the perpetrator from the home.

Find a specialist family lawyer here.

Some information on your legal options is below. For information on other services, please see the list of useful organisations below.

Orders

You can apply for an ‘injunction’ if you have been the victim of domestic violence. An injunction is a court order that either:

  • protects you or your child from being harmed or threatened by the person who’s  abused you – this is called a ‘non-molestation order’
  • decides who can live in the family home or enter the surrounding area – this is called an ‘occupation order’.

**If you are in immediate danger of being abused or you have been abused you should telephone the Police.**

You can get advice in respect of an injunction from a number of useful organisations http://www.resolution.org.uk/editorial.asp?page_id=359.

You may also be entitled to free legal representation https://www.gov.uk/legal-aid.

You can find a Resolution specialist here:  https://resolution.org.uk/find-a-law-professional//

Apply for an order

  1. Check if you are eligible, if you are unsure, obtain advice.
  2. Download and fill in the application form (form FL401) and make 2 copies.
  3. Write your witness statement telling the court what has happened and asking for what order you want the Court to make.
  4. At the bottom of the witness statement, write a statement of truth. Use the following words: “I believe that the facts stated in this witness statement are true.” Sign and date the statement of truth.
  5. Download and fill in form C8 if you want to keep your address and telephone number private.
  6. Deliver or send all the documents to your local family Court by email or by post: https://courttribunalfinder.service.gov.uk/search/postcode?aol=Domestic%20violence.  There is no fee.
  7. Notify the Court if you have any health or social barriers that would impact upon your ability to communicate or upon taking part in Court proceedings, attending Court (remotely or in person) e.g. language, illiteracy, physical disability or a mental health condition.
  8. Notify the Court if there are any religious considerations that the Court should take into account when fixing a hearing date.

Emergency orders

If you need protection immediately, ask for an emergency order when you apply. You do not have to tell the person you want protection from that you are applying so it’s known as a ‘without notice’ or ‘ex-parte’ application.

The court will hold a hearing which you must attend. The Court will notify if the hearing is taking place in person or remotely. It may issue an order at the hearing, if in an emergency it will normally last until the date of the next hearing.

You have to arrange for the other person to receive the documentation/ be ‘served’, this can be done via a Solicitor or the Court.  You should fill in a Statement of Service (Form FL415) and send to the Court if you are arranging service.

Non-emergency orders

If you do not need protection immediately then your application will be listed ‘on notice’.  This means that both you and the respondent will be informed of a date for you both to attend the first court hearing.  No order shall be made in advance of this date.

In advance of this hearing the respondent will be provided by the court with a copy of your application and your statement.

Your court hearing

Your hearing will be held in private and in most cases only you and the person you are applying for an injunction against, and any legal representatives, can attend.  If you need extra support or assistance you can ask the Court for this, in advance and it may be agreed that you can take a friend or relative into Court with you if you do not have a Solicitor.  They will not be able to talk on your behalf but can offer you support.

Get a decision

At the end of the hearing the court will make one of the following decisions:

  • the person you’ve applied for an injunction against must make an ‘undertaking’ (a promise) to do or not do something
  • you must provide more information – the court may issue a short-term order (an ‘interim order’) to protect you while you get this information
  • it will issue an order – when that ends they may hold another hearing to decide whether to renew the order

You will get a copy of the order if the court issues one. It will say what the respondent can and cannot do.

You should also take a copy of any order made to your local Police station.

Breach of order or undertaking

If an order has been made this carries an automatic power of arrest so should this be breached, you should contact the Police immediately.  If you feel it is an emergency for example your life is in danger or violence is being used or threatened, you should dial 999.  If you do not need an emergency response you should call 101 or use online reporting form on your local Police station website.

If you are not satisfied with the Police’s response or there is an undertaking in place you should make an application to the court for committal of the person who has breached the order or undertaking.

 

Useful organisations

This list is not exhaustive. There is likely to be a support service in your area.

Women’s Aid

0808 2000 247

Offers a free 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline and an online guide ‘The Survivors Handbook’. Children may also benefit from visiting their kids’ website called ‘The Hideout’. Provides a list of regional centres and services – see the Domestic Abuse Directory.

Refuge 

0808 2000 247

Works in partnership with Women’s Aid to provide advice and support to anyone experiencing domestic violence. Provides safe, emergency accommodation throughout the UK.

Women’s Domestic Violence Helpline

0161 636 7525

Manchester-based organisation offering national advice, information and telephone counselling. Helpline open Monday to Friday, 10am-4pm.

MALE (Men’s advice line and enquiries)

0808 801 0327

Support and advice for male victims of domestic violence, information for their families and for men who want to change their violent and abusive behaviour. Monday to Friday, 9am–5pm.

Pathway Project

01543 676 800

Organisation based in Staffordshire offering a free national 24-hour helpline and refuge accommodation, as well as counselling and support groups, including children’s therapeutic play sessions.

Southall Black Sisters

0208 571 0800

Resource centre based in London providing a service for women who are experiencing violence or abuse. Offers advice, group therapy and counselling, including in Hindi and Urdu.

Shelter 

0808 800 444

Practical help for victims of homelessness. 8am to midnight seven days a week.

Everyman Project 

0207 263 8884

Offers counselling and support to men who want to change their violent or abusive behaviour.

Men’s advice line

0808 801 0327

A confidential helpline for any man experiencing domestic abuse from a partner or ex-partner.

NSPCC

0808 800 500

Free access to current information on child abuse, child protection and safeguarding in England and Wales.

Respect phoneline 

0808 802 4040

Helpline for anyone concerned about their violence or abuse towards a partner or ex-partner.