domestic violence – what can I do to be safe

What Can I Do To Be Safe from Domestic Violence?

If you are considering leaving a violent relationship, you will be concerned about what will happen once you leave and what steps you can take to protect yourself afterwards. You will probably be concerned about what the other party may try to do to retaliate against you. These are normal concerns of our clients and questions that we often face. Experience shows that once you start the process of obtaining the protection of the courts, a previously violent partner will usually start to back off, not least because the protection afforded by the courts in domestic violence situations is real. However; in addition to the protection that the court will offer you, there are many other measures you can take to help protect yourself. We have listed below a few of your options:

Get an Injunction or Non-Molestation Order

Obtaining a non-molestation order should be the first thing you do to help you get out of a violent relationship. Although an injunction cannot physically protect you, your ex-partner will be arrested if they violate the order. Depending on what they try to do, they can face a significant custodial sentence. A non-molestation order can also prevent your ex-partner from contacting you or coming within a defined distance of your new home. In many instances where you decide to leave the property that you shared with that person, the court will also protect your new address from being disclosed to your ex-partner and can also make an Order preventing that person from going near the childrens schools or your work place.

Learn Self-Confidence & Self-Defence

Victims of domestic violence often lack self-esteem due to the abise that they have suffered. Learning to have confidence in yourself will help you stand up for yourself if the other party finds and confronts you. Learning self-defence is an excellent self-confidence booster. Also invest in a can of pepper spray. Always make sure that your mobile phone is fully charged and has sufficient credit when you are going out or home alone and keep all doors and windows locked at all times, day and night. Find a local counselling service and attend the meetings. They can do wonders to help boost your morale. Most important of all, never shy away from calling the police if you have any concerns. The police take domestic violence very seriously and will never treat a domestic violence call lightly. They know how frightened you will be and they also know how real the dangers can be for partners leaving a violent relationship. If you can’t learn self-defence because you are too frail or old, think about getting a dog. You would be surprised how many people are frightened of dogs.

Find A Roommate

If you have recently left a violent relationship, ask a friend to share a new home with you as a room or flat mate. Alternatively go and stay with family for a while. This will deter the other party from coming to your new home. If you do choose to get a roommate, then it is only fair to let them know your situation beforehand.

Change your Passwords

contact your bank and change your account passwords immediately. Do the same with your email account and all other things that you have passwords for. Your ex-partner will usually either know your passwords or be able to guess them. They will try to hack into your email account or Facebook or Twitter profile and they will take great pleasure at spilling out your personal information for the world to see. Take precautions and change all passwords to safe and difficultto guess passwords. Use a combination of words and numbers and do not use easy to guess numbers like dates of birth or speacial occasion dates. Inform your mobile and home phone network providersthat you have a violent ex-partner and place the accounts on high security with new passwords. Do the same with your savings account, PEP’s, ISA’s and anything else that you think your ex may try to ‘get at’.

Move Away From The Area

Moving to another area will help to deter your ex-partner from finding you. The further away you move, the least likely it will be that they will be able to find you. Try not to leave any forwarding address with the post office for your mail and asking family and friends not to reveal your whereabouts to your ex. Moving might be a difficult option if you are particularly closely connected to the area where you currently live. However, it may also be the perfect opportunity to start a new life for yourself somewhere new. The court will also help in keeping your new address secret from your ex-partner and in addition when attending court we always provide our domestic violence clients with a male chaparone to and from the court and where necessary we will also provide you with transport facilities so that your ex-partner or one of their friends cannot trace your movements.

Tell the Police

We will always notify your local police station as soon we obtain a non-molestation order on your behalf from the court. The police have systems where they record this type of information on a central computer and they will make sure that police officers monitor your address more closely and regularly pass by on their rounds to keep an eye on things. They will also add your phone number and address to a database that alerts them of the existence of the non-molestation order in the event that you should ever need to call them.

Change your Habits

A violent ex-partner will usually know a lot about you and your habits. They will know what you like doing and where you like going. They will also know what your movements usually are and where you can be expected to be. At times like this it is good idea to change your habits entirely. Stop visiting the usual old haunts and don’t take the usual route to and from work. Park your car in a different place, travel at different times and try to avoid quiet places. Tell your employers about your problem and you will usually find that they are more than happy to accommodate you. Tell a trusted friend at work and ask them to chaparone you to and from your car or the railway station. Try to stay in groups when you are out. You will not need to stick with your new routine indefinitely! Almost all violent ex-patners eventually get the message from the court that they cannot try to communicate withyou. In our experience these types of people are usually cowards why prey on people weaker than themselves. Once confronted by the law and the courts they almost always pull themselves together and back off! However; getting out of a violent relationship does need you to be cautious, at least for a while.

These are just a few of the many steps you can take to help protect yourself when leaving a domestic violence relationship. The most important thing is that you know how far your ex-partner will go and you therefore need to plan accordingly. The more extreme you feel your ex-partner will act about you leaving, the more extensive measures you will need to take to keep yourself safe.

Call the Experts

Call us on 020 8401 7352 as soon as think that you are ready to start the process of protecting yourself and getting out of a Domestic Violence relationship. We are not just experts at the law. We are experts at listening to you, understanding your needs and concerns and, above all at helping you regain your life after separation. We have helped hundreds of people through the process and will do everything possible to guide you through, safely and, confident that you have the best possible legal team acting for you. We will defend your position and safety at court and will invite the court to impose the toughest possible conditions on your ex. We have no compassion for violent partners and will ensure that they are prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Domestic Violence is inexcusable and unjustifiable.

We offer a free 30 minute telephone consultation to help you decide what you want to do and what is best for you. Call us today on 020 8401 7352

 

UKBA announces better support for victims of Domestic Violence

Better support for victims of Domestic Violence

The Home Secretary announces new safeguards to protect overseas spouses who become victims of domestic violence after entering the UK.

Overseas spouses and partners of UK residents who are forced to flee their relationships as a result of domestic violence will be able to access vital support services, the Home Secretary has announced.

At present, some pertners feel they have to stay in abusive relationships because they are in the UK on a spousal visa and have ‘no recourse to public funds’, meaning that they cannot access support services during the 2-year probationary period before they can apply for settlement.

Following a successful pilot project, these victims will be able to access services to ensure that they do not need to remain in violent relationships. Access to these services will be for a strictly limited period while the victim gathers evidence and makes a claim for residence based on the domestic violence, and while the UK Border Agency considers the application.

Home Secretary Theresa May said:

‘We are clear that no one should be forced to stay in an abusive relationship. Earlier this week I set out detailed plans for tackling all forms of violence against women, including domestic violence, in this country and overseas.

‘We have always said we will support the small number of spouses who must leave their relationship and are unable to access any support services. However, we are very clear there will be tough checks in place to ensure this system is not abused by those seeking to stay in the country where they do not have the right to.

Victims of domestic violence in the UK on a spousal visa can currently access some support services via a pilot programme known as the Sojourner Project, which has operated since November 2009. Between December 2009 and January 2011, 587 women and 358 children have been supported through the pilot. The permanent plan will come into effect next year.

Non-Molestation Orders

Non-Molestation Orders 

Domestic Violence & Ex-Parte Non-Molestation Injunction Applications

Often emergencies arise in Family Law matters which require urgent and immediate steps being taken to protect our client by way of an emergency ex-parte injunction. Injunction situations can arise 24 hours a day and in most cases we aim to have the matter brought to the attention of an emergency Judge within hours of being instructed. Time is therefore nearly always of the essence in nonmolestation injunctions and it is therefore essential that we get everything right, first time round, as there will rarely be any second chances.

See our full detailed article about the law applicable to ex-parte emergency non-molestation injunctions in English courts.

Non-Molestation Orders

These are court Orders available to victims of Domestic Violence. For details of what is classified as Domestic Violence see here.

A Non-Molestation Order is an order of the court to stop your partner or ex-partner from “molesting” you or your children. Molesting generally means harassing, pestering, controlling or interfering with you or your children in some way. This also includes violence and assault, even if it is threats of violence that have not yet been carried out. An “Assault” is any act or threatened act of violence and can include punching, slapping, throwing objects, spitting as well as using threatening words or threats of violence. Assaults are not restricted just to this list of behaviour and can be made up of a series of events over a long period of time. A Non-Molestation Order also prevents anyone your partner or ex-partner tells to molest, harass, pester or be violent towards you or your children.

Sadly at this time of year there is an increase in the number of calls we receive asking for help in controlling violent or abusive behaviour. As expert Family Law Solicitors we have extensive experience in obtaining the protection of the courts for our clients and we do this quickly, with complete understanding for your circumstances and efficiently. Should you be concerned about domestic violence and require advice on the law and options available to you, contact us on 020 8401 7352 for a free 30 minute telephone assessment of your circumstances and legal advice. We can also be contacted by email at info@solicitorsfirm.com should you prefer.

What is Domestic Violence

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence in English law can be broadly defined as a pattern of abusive behaviour by one or both partners in an intimate relationship such as marriage, dating, family or cohabitation. Domestic violence has many forms including physical aggression such as hitting, kicking, biting, shoving, restraining, slapping, throwing objects, or threats of physical aggression. Also included is sexual abuse, emotional abuse, controlling or dominating behaviour, intimidation, stalking, neglect, and economic deprivation as well as the effects of alcoholism and mental illness, which are often the triggers for domestic violence. Domestic violence usually forms a pattern of controlling or domineering behaviour and is present in all societies. Not all cases of domestic violence involve overt acts of physical violence. Sometime it can be hidden in a bullying and controlling environment. 

Is domestic violence prevalent only in certain cultures or classes?

No. Domestic violence is common in all cultures and classes of people. Although it is most commonly experienced by women, it is certainly not restricted to women only. Any person can experience domestic violence regardless of race, ethnic or religious background, class, wealth, disability or lifestyle. It can involve several family members and can also be directed toward children as well as adults. 


What is the official definition of domestic violence?

The law defines domestic violence as “Any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality.” 


 Why does it happen? 

For all sorts of reasons. It is usually always because of the abuser rather than the abused person, although it may not feel that way to the victim. Victims of domestic violence are often made to feel ‘at fault’ or responsible for the violence in some way. However; in an intimate relationship like marriage, the effects of domestic violence can be destructive and as well as affecting the immediate victim, these can also have a serious impact on other family members such as children. There is no reason why anybody should have to suffer domestic violence and the law is here to help in a very fast and effective way. Often abusers are very well behaved in public and many of their friends and relatives will be completely unaware of their abusive behaviour. Domestic Violence abusers will also very often try to shift the blame for their violence onto the victim, stripping the victim of self-confidence and self-esteem and always taking the upper hand in criticism. 

 


 What can I do about Domestic Violence? 

 

Plenty! It may come as a surprise to many victims of domestic violence but this is one area of the law where the courts take a no-nonsense approach to allegations of domestic violence and protection is available fast and it is very effective. All you need to do is decide that ‘enough is enough’! Once you have decided to seek the protection of the law, an urgent application can often be brought on your behalf by your lawyers to the courts, without the abuser being aware of the proceedings and, the courts will normally immediately issue a Non-Molestation Injunction providing immediate protection. Any further attempts at Domestic Violence after the issue of this injunction will be a criminal offence and the abuser will fast find themselves arrested, in a police cell and in deep trouble. Abusers who breach a nonmolestation Order can easily find themselves in prison. 

Although there is no single criminal offence called ‘domestic violence’, the acts that comprise domestic violence are very often criminal offences in themselves. For example, harassment, assault, criminal damage, physical violence, rape, false imprisonment, sexual abuse and threats or harassment. 

 


 

Domestic Violence – Help 

We are experts at dealing with sensitive and often disturbing cases of domestic violence. To help assess your entitlement to the protection of the court we offer a free initial telephone consultation with a specialist Domestic Violence Solicitor on 020 8401 7352. During that telephone consultation we will obtain some information from you about your particular circumstances and  we will be able to tell you whether the protection of the courts is available in your specific situation. We will also explain to you the procedure, processes and probable costs of the work you need us to conduct for you as well as the likely timescales involved. 

 


 

 

 

 


   

Occupation Orders | Croydon Solicitors

DISPUTE-RESOLUTION lawyers croydon

Often emergencies arise in Family Law matters which require urgent and immediate steps being taken to protect our client by way of an emergency ex-parte injunction.

Injunction situations can arise 24 hours a day and in most cases we aim to have the matter brought to the attention of an emergency Judge within hours of being instructed.

Time is therefore nearly always of the essence in Ocupation Order applications and it is therefore essential that we get everything right, first time round, as there will rarely be any second chances.

In the second of this three part article, Cyrus Mansouri explores the law applicable to ex-parte emergency Occupation Injunction Orders in English courts. In part three we will look at Ex-Parte applications brought to protect the rights and welfare of children, pursuant to section 8 of the Children Act 1989.

What is Occupation Orders

An Occupation Order is an Order of the court stating who can and who cannot occupy domestic premises.

It is usually brought alongside an application for a Non-Molestation Injunction and is an application asking the District Judge to make an Order excluding your spouse or unmarried partner from entering or cohabiting in the family home.

Such an application can be brough Ex-Parte in an emergency or On Notice in all other cases.

It is a very serious application because in essence, it can exclude your spouse or partner from living at the family home, even though they may be the sole owner of that property.

There are two tests to which the court must have regard when deciding whether to grant an application for an Occupation Order:

The two tests

  1. The first is known as the ‘balance of harm test‘ because it requires the court to balance the harm caused to the applicant, respondent and any relevant children if the order were or were not to be made.

    Where the applicant is entitled to occupy the dwelling house or a spouse or former spouse of the respondent and there would be a risk of the applicant or relevant child suffering significant harm, attributable to the respondent, if the order was not made, greater than any harm caused to the respondent or relevant child if the order were made then the court have a duty to grant the order (FLA 1996, s 33(7), s 37(4)).

    However; where the applicant is not entitled to occupy the property and a cohabitant or a former cohabitant then the court must simply ‘have regard’ to the balance of harm test (s 36(7)(b); s 38(4)(e)).

  2. The second test is usually referred to as the ‘core criteria‘, which the court may have regard at any time when granting an occupation order, even if they have found against the applicant on the balance of harm test.

    The content of the core criteria depend upon the applicant’s entitlement to occupy the property and their relationship with the respondent.

    If the applicant is entitled to occupy the property then the core criteria are:

(a) the housing needs and housing resources of each of the parties and of any relevant child;
(b) the financial resources of each of the parties;
(c) the likely effect of any order, or of any decision by the court not to exercise its powers under subsection (3), on the health, safety or well-being of the parties and of any relevant child; and
(d) the conduct of the parties in relation to each other and otherwise.

If the applicant is not entitled but a spouse or former spouse of the respondent then the court may have regard to some additional factors including the length of time since the parties lived together, the length of time since the marriage was formally ended and any ongoing Ancillary Relief applications or disputes as to the ownership of the property.

If the applicant is not entitled but a cohabitant or former cohabitant of the respondent then the court may also have regard to the nature and length of the parties’ relationship, whether there are or have been any relevant children, the length of time since the parties’ relationship came to an end and whether there are any ongoing Schedule 1, Children Act 1989 maintenance applications.

The affidavit

The applicant must file at court a sworn Affidavit setting out why they think they should be granted an Occupation Order.

In an ex-parte hearing most courts will be extremely unlikely to hear lengthy legal argument and the court will be reluctant to remove a respondent from a property in which they live, in the absence of compelling reasons.

This is where the merits of the case must be carefully examined before such an application is made and where a decision is made to proceed with an Ex-Part Occupation Order application, the affidavit will be crucial to the chances of that application succeeding.

This is where expert Legal Assistance will be priceless. Even where it may seem as though there is merit in the application being granted ex-parte the applicant’s best case should always be made out in the affidavit.

This will form the basis of application at the return hearing (usually a week later) when the Respondent will also be present at the court and able to respond to the issues raised.

The suitability of the respondent’s current accommodation will be decisive in whether an order is granted. It will also have a direct impact upon the duration of the order, and the urgency with which the court will deal with the ex-parte Occupation Order application.

The Applicant needs to address the the core criteria clearly and in detail in the Occupation Order affidavit. A well drafted and concise affidavit can make the difference between a successful application and an unsuccessful application.

Terms of occupation orders

An occupation order regulating the occupation of the dwelling home can exclude the respondent from the whole of the property or just a part of it.

In some cases the court may grant an occupation order confined to a zone of safety around a particular part of the property rather than the whole of the property. If such an order is sought, the affidavit should set out clearly how this is possible.

It can be useful to provide the court with a floor plan of the property, exhibited to the affidavit in support of an occupation order.

Duration of an occupation order

The duration of an occupation order will, like the non-molestation order, largely depend upon the facts of the particular case.

That there are strict rules in occupation orders relevant to the maximum periods of time which an occupation order can be granted, dependent upon the applicant’s entitlement to occupy the property and their relationship with the respondent.

When consulting us about an occupation order, you should bring with you as much information as possible to help us to assess your circumstances accurately.

An ex-parte occupation order is not something to be embarked on lightly, however; where appropriate grounds exist, we can move fast to secure your occupation of your home, exclude your violent or threatening partner and provide protection from the courts and police to you and where appropriate your children.

When assessing your situation we need to consider all the surrounding circumstances including:

  • Determining your entitlement to occupy the property
  • Find out whether the respondent is in occupation of the property and the legal nature of their ownership or occupation
  • Consider the length of the relationship
  • Find the appropriate section under which you must apply, as this differs depending on the nature of your relationship with the Respondent
  • Remind you that a non-entitled applicant who is associated in a way other than by being a spouse, former spouse, co-habitant or former cohabitant of the respondent is not able to apply for an occupation order
  • Assessing the balance of harm test and whether it is appropriate to you
  • Preparing the affidavit including all the factual reasons relevant to the core criteria why the occupation order should be made
  • Determine whether it is appropriate to prohibit the respondent entering or attempting to enter the property on an ex-parte basis;
  • Consider whether you would be sufficiently protected by a zone of safety within the property

Summary

By nature an ex-parte application places judges in an uncomfortable position. It is therefore crucial that if such an application is to have any chance of success, it is prepared by experts with a proven track record of dealing with similar circumstances.

To assess whether you could be entitled to an Occupation Order, contact us for a free telephone consultation on 020 8401 7352 or to book an appointment.