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Controlling and Coercive Behaviour Within Relationships

Published on 6 May 2023 | Modified on 16 May 2023

Written by Tim Edgeley

Divorce & Family

Controlling and Coercive Behaviour Within Relationships

 More and more often we are seeing cases whereby this type of behaviour is being recognised. That’s not to say it wasn’t as prolific previously, it’s just that we are more aware of it.

Controlling behaviour has always been a ‘thing’ in intimate relationships because there are people who use their position within the relationship to gain control. This more often than not is with regards to money and the greater earner, historically has been the man due to the inherent disparities of salary based on gender.

 Thankfully now the law changed regarding the seriousness of this type of behaviour, particularly within intimate relationships. This is all part and party of domestic abuse, and the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 codified a lot of the Legislation prior to 2021 into this legislation.

 This article however is written to give more of an insight into the real powers that the Courts have when dealing with this type of behaviour.

 To put how the seriousness of this type of offending is into perspective, the legislations is within the Serious Crime Act 2015.

Section 75 of the Serious Crime Act states;

– A person (A) commits an offence if:

(a) A repeatedly or continuously engages in behaviour towards another person (B) that is controlling or coercive,

(b) at the time of the behaviour, A and B are personally connected,

(c) the behaviour has a serious effect on B, and

(d) A, knows or ought to know that the behaviour will have a serious effect on B.

The Court has the power in the more serious cases to sentence a perpetrator into custody for up to 5 years. That is just for this offence, not any assaults or sexual offending that often we see alongside this behaviour, but just this offence.  This legislation therefore has real and significant consequences for perpetrators of this behaviour.

What amounts to Controlling and Coercive behaviour…?

There are many and varied types of this behaviour, the more obvious being, control over money or whether you are allowed out and with whom.  However, there are more subtle ones like, subtle emotional behaviours, sulking if you don’t do as asked. It might sound trivial, but it builds up a picture within the wider relationship of controlling behaviour. Also, “you’re not going out in that are you”… again not overtly controlling, but it mays as well read as, “you’re not going out in that”. Monitoring time, “where have you been till now”. It all adds up and undermines one’s individuality.

Quite often these behaviours are learnt behaviour from their own social interactions whilst growing up and entering into relationships.

There are courses available that can assist in re-educating the perpetrators of these behaviours and give them the tools to move forward.

So, what can we do about this….?

The Police and Criminal Courts can become involved, but there are often feelings of disproportionality with the perceived behaviour and the consequences for the perpetrator whom one may still be in love with.

There are things Poole Alcock can help with including, Non-molestation Orders, Child Arrangement Orders and Occupation Orders when you are both still under the same roof and it’s becoming untenable or intolerable.

These are orders that we at Poole Alcock can assist with. However, it may not be necessary to have any Court orders. It may simply be a case of making undertakings with regards to completing relevant courses on re-education. Quite often this approach works well because sometimes the perpetrator isn’t aware that their behaviour is having the effect it is on the other person within a relationship. Once this is pointed out and the education gained can make a huge difference.

Our specialist team of family law solicitors have a long history of successfully supporting clients and are able to assist you with the drafting of any of the above orders or advising you in relation to any draft agreement prepared by your partner’s solicitors.

We can provide you with a fixed fee quotation for all of the work associated with any of the above orders, based on your unique circumstances.

If you would like an initial consultation with one of our family law specialists to allow us to take your details and provide you with a bespoke quote for our services, please contact us on 0800 470 0330. The breakdown of a marriage or long term relationship can be one of the most stressful times and we are here to guide you through it in the best way possible, mitigating the stress both before and after the breakdown of the relationship.



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