The first priority in a domestic violence situation is the safety of the victim and the children. If a partner is in immediate danger of physical harm, then there are several organisations that can help, including the police. While contacting the police should often be the first step, particularly if the victim and their family are in immediate danger, a family lawyer can also support you through this emotional and often complex time.
Once a person has managed to escape a violent situation, whether it’s a one-off event or a pattern of abuse over a prolonged period, they need to stay safe. Unfortunately, this can often be incredibly difficult, especially if the abuser has an undue influence over the victim, is controlling, or malicious.
While the police may take action and initiate criminal proceedings if there has been physical violence, that isn’t always the case as domestic violence cases are notoriously complex. In many situations, the victim may not want to pursue criminal charges – they may simply want the whole situation to ‘go away’. In these instances, a family lawyer may be the one person who can really make a difference.
Emotional and legal support
One of the most important things a domestic abuse survivor needs is support. Family lawyers aren’t just there to offer legal advice, but also provide support on how to move forward. They can talk to advisory groups on the victim’s behalf and get them the help and support they need, including providing links to organisations that can help with emergency housing, financial support, and even relocation.
Once the situation has been made safe, it’s then time to make certain that things don’t go back to the way they were. There are various ways that a family solicitor can help achieve this, and a number of legal avenues victims can go down to protect themselves and their children.
A Non-Molestation Order prevents the abuser from using or even threatening violence, harassment, or intimidation towards a victim or any children that are currently living with the victim. This course of action is a civil order and is granted by a family court or county court, rather than a criminal court. While it may be a civil matter at this stage, an abuser can be arrested and charged by the police. Breach of a Non-Molestation Order can result in a prison sentence of up to five years.
Sometimes, abusers and their victims continue to live under the same roof, for a variety of reasons. It may be that they are attempting to resolve the issue, or that the victim simply doesn’t have anywhere else to go. If things are still not working out, an Occupation Order can be obtained. This excludes the abuser access to the property, but they may have to continue to pay the rent or mortgage even if they don’t live at that address.
Both parties could technically take out Occupation Orders, and they can become very complex and problematic. They are, however, civil orders and an abuser cannot be arrested for breaking an Occupation Order. It is possible to ask a civil court to enforce the order, but the main thing to remember is that a civil order is not a guarantee of safety. If at any time a victim feels that the situation is becoming dangerous then it’s important to get immediate help and if necessary, call the police.
Domestic abuse doesn’t just mean physical violence. In recent times, it’s become much more apparent that mental abuse is a destructive aspect of toxic relationships. Mental abuse can include bullying, coercive controlling behaviour, emotional abuse, and gaslighting. The key thing to remember is that any kind of abuse, be it physical or mental, is wrong, and the victim doesn’t have to put up with it, regardless of what the abuser says.
A family law representative can help victims of domestic abuse break the cycle, as well as helping them protect their financial assets and, most importantly, the physical and mental well-being of the victim and the children.
If you are concerned about domestic violence or abuse, let your legal team become part of your support system. They’ll treat your case with the utmost confidentiality and help you get the support you need to break out of a toxic relationship. If you are married, your family solicitor can also help you through the separation and divorce process. They’ll help you start a new chapter in your life – one where you feel safe from physical or mental abuse.