The breakdown of a relationship is never easy. However in some circumstances the situation is made even worse where domestic violence is an issue or has become so since you have separated.
What is domestic violence?
- There has been a great deal of discussion in the media about this. The legal definition is ‘emotional, physical, financial and/or sexual abuse of a person by their partner, ex-partner, family member or someone with whom there is or has been a personal relationship’. Domestic violence takes many forms from low level harassment through to emotional harm and actual physical violence and injury. Breaking the cycle of violence can be extremely difficult but it is important that you know that you have options available to you.
What are my options?
- If you are experiencing harassment it may be appropriate to send a formal warning letter to the person causing the harassment. This will say that the behaviour is unacceptable and warn that if it continues ‘injunction proceedings’ ordering him/her to stop may follow. If the conduct is more serious there are two main legal remedies, the first is called a Non-molestation Order. This is a court order saying that the person responsible for the problems must not:-
- Intimidate, harass or pester you
- Use or threaten violence against you or instruct or encourage any other person to do so
- Depending on the circumstances you may also be able to apply for an occupation order. This order can say who can occupy any jointly owned/rented property, it can also restrict the person responsible from occupying particular property or exclude him/her from it or a defined area around it.
Can I apply for a ‘non-molestation order’ or an ‘occupation order’?
- Yes, provided that you are classed as ‘an associated person’ under the Family Law Act 1996. An associated person can be:
- If you do not fall under one of the above categories you can still apply for an order under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
- someone who you have been married to or been in a civil partnership with,
- someone who you have cohabited with,
- someone you have lived with in the same household other than as a tenant, lodger, boarder or employee,
- a relative (most immediate relatives now including cousins),
- a person who you have agreed to marry,
- a person with whom you have a child together,
- an ex cohabitee,
- a natural relative of a child who you have adopted
- and/or the child’s adoptive carers.
How long will it take to get a court order?
- Where there is a real and immediate risk of danger of serious injury to you or threat to your life if the person responsible where to become aware of any court proceedings then we can apply without notice to the Court (previously called ‘ex parte’) for an order. This would have to be followed by a second hearing giving the other party an opportunity to attend and respond to the allegations made against him/her. Depending upon the severity of any threat, a without notice application could be made within a day or two. The second hearing will depend upon court time but will normally be within a week or two.
- If there is no immediate danger you it is normal to apply by giving notice of your application to the person responsible. The application is made to the Court and the other party would then be personally served with the papers giving him/her notice of the hearing date, this gives the other party the opportunity to seek independent legal advice and attend at the hearing. The application can still be made within days but when the timing of the hearing depends upon how busy your local court is.
- The English court system works on the basis that it will only in extreme circumstances make orders against individuals without their having notice of the allegations and their chance to have their say in response . You need to appreciate that the courts dealing with family law work come across conflict and aggressive behaviour on a very regular basis and any conduct or threat justifying being dealt with on a no notice basis has to be exceptional even against this background.
How much will an order cost?
- Each case is different and the cost of the injunction orders depend on the level of co-operation by the person responsible and whether they contest the application which you have made. Please contact Carmelita Ardren who can discuss your case in more detail and be able to confirm the likely cost. In every case there will be costs of serving the paperwork on the other party.
How long will the order last for?
- In most cases a non-molestation order will be made for a period of between three to six months although in certain circumstances this can be increased to twelve months. If there are further incidents of harassment towards the end of the term of the order then an application can be made for the original order to be extended.
What happens if the other person ignores the Court Order?
- If the other person ignores a non-molestation or occupation order and is abusive or violent towards you then this is a breach of the order which is now an ‘arrestable (criminal) offence’. The police are under an obligation to arrest the person responsible for this and matters will be dealt with through the Criminal Courts. If the breach is proven then the court has the power to fine or imprison the person responsible.