do you apply for one of these orders?
courts will do there best to help a personal applicant; and you do not
need a solicitor to apply for an order.
But for someone who is going through a tough time at home, and
whose self confidence may have been dented, having a solicitor or
barrister who knows there way through the system and will give them
advice and support can be invaluable.
An applicant will not necessarily have to pay; she may be
eligible for legal aid (she will be eligible for completely free advice
and assistance if she earns less than £2,625 a year and has under £3,000
savings, and will qualify for some assistance if her annual income is
under £7,777 and her savings are under £6,750).
non-molestation or occupation order can be sought at a number of levels
within the court system. For
example, if someone has already started divorce proceedings in the High
Court, it may be convenient to ask that court for an order.
If they have not already been to court somewhere else, their
local magistrate’s court will also be able to make an order.
if there are children in the family?
new law also affects the law relating to children. When one parent has been violent to the other, a
non-molestation order is in place and they have separated, the
possibility of future violence is one which the court will have to
consider when making a contact order on behalf of a violent parent.
Research has shown that it is usually best for the children to
have an ongoing relationship with both parents after separation or
divorce, and that many fathers who are violent to their partner are not
violent to their children???? However,
research has also shown that children can be badly scarred by witnessing
violence between their parents (for example, when their father returns
them from a contact visit), and the court will be eager to minimise the
risk of this kind of harm.
social services have become involved because someone in the house is
physically or sexually abusing a child, until now the court had power to
allow social services to remove the child from the house.
Under the new law, however, the court can order the abuser to
leave the house, provided that there is another appropriate adult
prepared to remain in the house with the child.
happens if an order is broken?
of a non-molestation order or an occupation order where a
non-molestation order is also in place is a criminal offence, with a
maximum penalty of three months in prison or a substantial fine.
The police have a power to arrest someone caught breaking an
order, and will not hesitate to do so.
In 1993 the RUC policy statement on domestic violence made it
clear that police regard domestic violence as a crime, and will treat it
just as seriously as an assault on a stranger in the street.
someone feels so unsafe that they leave their home, does that affect
course a court order is not the answer for everyone; some orders are
breached, and some people may know that seeking an order will exacerbate
an already dangerous situation. If
someone feels so unsafe that they feel it necessary to leave home, they
should do so. They may feel
safer living with another family member, but Women’s aid can provide
emergency accommodation for a woman and her children.
Someone who is thinking about leaving home should consider the
need to make arrangements for their children too, and should seek advice
from their solicitor. However,
the fact that someone leaves their home to escape violence by their
partner will NOT affect their property rights in the house in subsequent
happens if someone is too frightened to bring court proceedings?
someone is too frightened to bring court proceedings, they should still
seek advice and support about the violence they are suffering.
Women’s Aid or other support groups will have met many people
in the same position in the past, and most police stations now have a
Domestic Violence Liaison Officer who will also be able to give advice
the law protect people who are not “associated persons”?
who are not “associated persons” fall outside the remit of the
Family Homes and Domestic Violence Order, but that does not mean they
are unprotected. Violence
against anyone is a crime, and the police will prosecute.
The person may seek an injunction in the civil courts (a
“non-molestation order” in all but name).
They also have protection from violence and behaviour short of it
in the Protection from Harassment Order 1997, which makes harassment
both a criminal offence and something an individual can be protected
from by a civil court injunction. Damages
from harassment are also available.
Harassment includes violence, but also the sort of behaviour
commonly called “stalking”. People
who may want to use this law might include someone who had recently
finished a relationship, and whose former boy/girlfriend was harassing
them, but who had neither been engaged nor living together, and so could
not claim the protection of the Family Homes and Domestic Violence
the new law just deal with violent families?
Family Homes and Domestic Violence Order does not deal with all cases of
“non-stranger” violence, but equally, is relevant to family disputes
which do not involve violence; for example, where there is a dispute
about who should live in a house. These
disputes are likely to be quite complicated, and the parties should also
seek legal advice.
the old law still relevant at all?