Domestic violence is on the increase. A recent British Crime Survey Statistical Bulletin has reported that domestic abuse now affects one in four women and one in six men. But how can the law help victims of domestic violence? And does current law need reforming for children who are subject to domestically abusive parents?
What can you do if you are a victim of or at risk of threat of immediate violence?
You can apply for an injunction. You can obtain a non-molestation order which is aimed at preventing the alleged perpetrator from using or threatening violence against you or your child, intimidating, harassing or pestering you, in order to ensure the health, safety and well-being of yourself and your children.
You can also obtain an Occupation Order which deals with the right to stay, return or be excluded from a home. An occupation order doesn't change the financial shares in a home. It is usually a short-term measure and the length of time that it lasts will depend on the circumstances.
How to apply for an injunction
There are two ways in which you can apply for an injunction. In an emergency, you can apply for an 'ex-parte' order, which means that the threat of physical violence is imminent and the perpetrator is not aware of the application before the Court until the matter has been before a District Judge. If the application is successful, an interim order will be made and the perpetrator will be personally served with the papers.
Alternatively, you can apply 'On Notice', which means that the perpetrator is aware of the proceedings before the Court considers whether an order for protection should be made.
How much will this cost?
You may be entitled to Legal Aid for these proceedings. Legal Aid is tested on a means and merits basis. Initially, you should seek legal advice to see if you are entitled to free advice.
Children and domestic violence
In any case where there are allegations of domestic violence, the court has to ensure that the well-being of a child is paramount. But does the law need reforming for children who are subject to domestically abusive parents?
Senior judges are currently taking steps to end the presumption that a father must have contact with a child where there is evidence of domestic abuse that would put the child or mother at risk. Changes are contained in amendments to judicial guidance, known as practice direction 12J. One important proposed change is the current presumption in the family court that there should be 'contact at all costs' between parent and child. The changes propose that contact should cease in cases where involvement of a parent in a child’s life would place the child or other parent at risk of harm.
Are you a victim of domestic violence?
If you or your child is a victim of domestic violence, you can arrange for an initial conversation with one of our family law experts free of charge, in confidence and with no obligation.
Stacey Lunn is a Legal Assistant based in our Cotteridge office. You can telephone her on 0121 685 8122 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.