Protecting your children
Parents experiencing domestic abuse often try to shield their children from what is happening, for example, by playing it down or not speaking about it at all. However, despite these efforts, the reality is that most children are aware that something is ‘wrong’. As many as 90% of children are in the same room or in the next room when domestic abuse occurs. Children who experience domestic abuse in their household are likely to feel fear, worry, sadness and anger. Some children may bottle up their feelings, whilst others may act out.
It may be tempting to believe that the behaviour of the abusing parent will eventually change, however, the reality is that this places the abused parent and their children at enormous risk. Even when things improve for a time, significant change is likely to only occur if the abusive parent has acknowledged the problem and is actively seeking professional help
If you are experiencing domestic abuse, your first priority is probably the safety of yourself and your children. Speaking to a domestic abuse support service is often the first step to making safety plans for you and your children. You can contact the National Domestic Abuse Helpline if you are in England and Live Fear Free if you are in Wales to discuss what steps you might take to plan for your safety. There are other organisations at the end of this page you may find useful.
In some cases, trying to protect yourself and your children may involve the police or 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 arrangements for your children including their living arrangements and contact.
You may be eligible for legal aid for an injunction. If your income or capital is above a certain limit, you would have to pay a contribution towards your legal aid.
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. 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. You may find it helpful to speak to your children’s school about what is happening. They may be able to offer extra support to your children.
Getting legal protection
If you want to get legal protection you can apply to the family 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.
Some information on your legal options is below. For information on other services, please see the list of useful organisations below.
You can apply for an ‘injunction’ if you have been the victim of domestic abuse. 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.
FLOWS provides advice and support in relation to applications for injunctions and can help put you in contact with a solicitor.
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
- Check if you are eligible, if you are unsure, obtain advice.
- Download and fill in the application form (form FL401) and make 2 copies.
- Write your witness statement telling the court what has happened and asking for what order you want the court to make.
- 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.
- Download and fill in form C8 if you want to keep your address and telephone number private.
- Deliver or send all the documents to your local family Court by email or by post. Find you local family court by postcode here
- 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) eg language, illiteracy, physical disability or a mental health condition.
- Notify the Court if there are any religious considerations that the Court should take into account when fixing a hearing date.
If you need protection immediately, you can ask that your application for an injunction is dealt with urgently. 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 you if the hearing is taking place in person or remotely. It may issue an order at the hearing that will normally last until the date of the next hearing.
You have to arrange for the other person to be handed a copy of the documents including your witness statement. This is called being ‘served’. If you have a solicitor, they will arrange this. If you do not have a solicitor, you can ask the court to make arrangements or pay for a process server to serve the papers. If you are worried this is going to be a problem for you, tell the judge this during the hearing. You should fill in a Statement of Service (Form FL415) and send to the court if you are arranging service.
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
Breach of a non-molestation order is a criminal offence. You can call the police if the order has been breached. 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 can call 101.
If you are not satisfied with the police’s response or there is an undertaking in place you can make an application to the court for committal of the person who has breached the order or undertaking.
This list is not exhaustive. There is likely to be a support service in your area.
A solicitor specialising in domestic abuse can be found from the Resolution website – consider referring to a local specialist. They may be able to offer legal aid to your client.
Specialist support services for clients
National Domestic Abuse Helpline (England) provides a 24 hour helpline offering support and advice on domestic abuse for women in England It can put women in touch with local refuges. Call 0808 2000 247.
Live Fear Free Helpline (Wales) a 24 hour helpline offering support and advice on domestic abuse, sexual violence or violence against women in Wales. Call 0808 80 10 800.
Men’s Advice Line is a helpline for male survivors of domestic abuse. Call 0808 801 0327.
24/7 Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Line provides a 24 hour helpline for anyone aged 16 or over in England and Wales who has been affected by rape, child sexual abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment or any other form of sexual violence. Call 0808 500 2222.
National Stalking Helpline provides support and advice on stalking and harassment. Call 0808 802 0300.
Surviving Economic Abuse is the only UK charity dedicated to raising awareness of economic abuse and transforming responses to it. SEA provides information resources for women experiencing economic abuse (Tools to Thrive) and the professionals supporting them (Tools to Support). They also run a Financial Support Line with Money Advice Plus.
GALOP provides advice and support to LGBTQ+ people affected by domestic and sexual violence and hate crime. Call 020 7704 2040.
DeafHope provides a sign-language based service designed to help deaf women and children affected by domestic violence.
Imkaan is the only UK-based, umbrella women’s organisation dedicated to addressing violence against Black and Minoritised women and girls. They maintain a list of member organisations on their website.
Karma Nirvana provides a 24 hour helpline offering support and advice on forced marriage and honour based violence for women in England and Wales. Call 0808 2000 247.
Forced Marriage Unit provides support and advice to those at risk of being or who have been forced into a marriage whether in the UK or abroad. Call 020 7008 0151 or from overseas +44 (0)20 7008 0151.
Forward provides advice and information on FGM.
NSPCC provides a 24 hour helpline offering support and advice to children or adults who have concerns about children in England and Wales. Call 0800 028 3550.
Victim Support provides a network of advice and support services for victims of crime. Call 0845 30 30 900. Find your nearest service here.
Respect Phoneline is a confidential helpline, email and webchat service for domestic abuse perpetrators of domestic abuse who want to talk to someone about their behaviour. They support men and women who are using abuse in same-sex or heterosexual relationships.
Stop it Now! Helpline is a specialist helpline run by the Lucy Faithfull Foundation dedicated to preventing child sexual abuse. The helpline is available for anyone who is worried about their own behaviour or the behaviour of others. Call 0808 1000 900.