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Domestic abuse: How does the law help?

Published on 20 December 2022 | Modified on 16 December 2022

Written by Lana Jones

It was reported by the government in March 2021 there had been 845,734 domestic-abuse related crimes within the past year. This number is staggering alone, before accounting for the thousands of cases that go unreported.

With this depressing reality in mind, it is important to know what steps can be taken to help victims. Although the majority of help is commonly provided from the police and the criminal justice system, there are multiple ways that family law specialists can help as well.


Defining abuse

The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 gained Royal Assent on 29th April 2021. Section 1 of the Act provides that abuse occurs where both parties are 16 or over, they are personally connected (married, engaged, relatives, intimate relationship etc.), and the behaviour is abusive. When defining abusive behaviour, the Act acknowledges abuse in a wide scope such as physical, sexual, threatening behaviour, controlling, coercive, economical, psychological, emotional, or other abuse. As well as this, abuse need not be an ongoing course of conduct, but can be a single incident.

This is key legislation that introduces new layers of protection for victims of domestic abuse. The Act provides a clear definition of abuse, aiding victims to recognise signs and signals of abuse.


Seeking help

If you have any reason to believe you are a victim of domestic abuse it is imperative you seek help. The National Domestic Abuse helpline, run by the charity Refuge, is a free 24hr support line on 08082 000 247.

Not only this, but there may be ways for a family law specialist to help as well, such as helping you to separate or divorce and deal with the financial matters, as well as injunctions such as non-molestation orders and occupation orders. It is important to seek legal advice to gain the best support and understand your options.


No-fault divorce

2022 brought significant change to divorce across the UK. These changes were significant, not only to all who may be seeking a divorce but have had a wider impact in supporting victims of domestic abuse.

Previously, you would need to raise unreasonable behaviour or adultery or obtain the other party’s consent to a divorce within 2 years.  If the divorce was defended then you would have to wait until 5 years of separation had passed before you could apply for a divorce, or risk going through an expensive and lengthy court process to prove the marriage had irretrievably broken down.  This made it more difficult for victims to obtain a divorce.

The new law brings an end to these issues.

It is important to seek legal advice when getting a divorce to discuss your options and gain the best possible help. Your solicitor may also advise you on obtaining further protection, such as those below.


Non-molestation order

A non-molestation order is an injunction that can prevent the other party from contacting you, directly or indirectly and can restrict them from coming to your property.

A non-molestation order can last 6-12 months but can last longer in some cases. Any breach of this order is a criminal offence, punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment.


Occupation order

Although a non-molestation order can be used to restrict the other party from coming to your property, sometimes an occupation order is needed to determine who should live in the former family home. This means that the other party, even if they are a legal owner, could be prevented from entering the home and potentially the surrounding areas as well.

Upon application, the court will give regard to a multiple of factors, including any relevant children, the financial resources of each party, any housing needs and the potential of any harm that may be caused if the order is not made.


Contact our team of specialist family lawyers to discuss your options on 0800 470 0335.

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