Domestic abuse. The law is on your side.
The often taboo issue of domestic abuse has been in the press recently due to the high profile case involving singer Rihanna and her boyfriend Chris Brown. This case has highlighted the fact that violence and abuse in the home is something that affects people of all ages and social groups, once and for all dispelling the myth that it is a problem faced only by married women from deprived economic backgrounds.
In my job as a family lawyer, I have dealt with domestic abuse cases involving rich and poor, male and female as well as people of various races and religions.
Victims of abuse often feel trapped in their situation; partly this can be because of lack of knowledge about the help that is available for them, both in terms of immediate help in escaping from their situation and also in ongoing legal protection.
If you are currently in a domestic abuse situation, a family lawyer can provide you with information on how to protect yourself and your children and also help you to prepare for the future by advising you on injunctions, your rights of occupation in the family home and helping you with separation, divorce and financial settlements.
At Norrie Waite & Slater solicitors we provide a free half hour confidential consultation, so that you can find out what specific help is available to you. Legal aid is available to everyone who needs injunctive protection, whatever your financial circumstances.
Here, I have outlined the legal remedies that are available to support victims of domestic abuse.
What is domestic violence?
Domestic violence is when one person inflicts aggressive or abusive behaviour on another person who they are married to, cohabiting with, a relative of or a parent of the same child with.
The most common forms of domestic abuse include:
- Violence & physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Threats (against you or your children)
- Emotional & verbal abuse (calling you names, humiliation, playing mind games)
A family lawyer can help you to seek protection from any of the above. You can take out an injunction against the perpetrator of the abuse. This can always be done very quickly and in emergency situations, even the same day without notice to the other party.
An injunction is the term used to describe the order that can be made by the courts to provide you with protection and stop someone from doing a particular act. For example, an injunction can be made which prevents someone from coming within a specified distance of you or your home. If an injunction is breached there can be serious legal consequences, such as arrest and imprisonment.
There are two main types of Orders available that the Court can make:
A non-molestation order prevents a person from carrying out unreasonable behaviour that they may have been inflicting upon you or your children. This includes all the types of behaviour listed above and can prohibit the abuser from telephoning you, texting you, or trying to contact you in any other way either directly or indirectly.
Breach of this particular Order is now an arrestable offence and the police will automatically be notified of any Order made to protect you, as soon as the other party has been served with it. The police can therefore take immediate action upon breach.
An occupation order instructs the abuser to leave your home forthwith or in some circumstances within a particular timescale and can prevent the abuser from coming within a specified distance of the property e.g. 100 metres. Your partner can be forcibly removed from your home by the police if they refuse to leave.
Breaching an occupation order is not automatically an arrestable offence, the family courts therefore attach what is called a power of arrest to the order so that once again immediate action can be taken by the police. The abuser will then be taken to court following which it is possible to pursue the abuser's committal to prison. Again, the police are notified so that they are aware of the protection granted to you by the family courts and can act quickly if a problem develops.
Any breach of an order is taken very seriously by the courts and punishments can include a financial penalty and/or a prison sentence.
Both of these types of orders can be passed quickly by the courts and initially without the abuser being present (although the order is not effective until it has been personally served upon him/her).
The law is available to protect victims of domestic abuse, and the legal aid system is in place for anyone who is unable to afford legal representation.
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