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​COVID-19: How can victims of domestic abuse seek help during the pandemic?

Domestic violence charities and government agencies have warned there is likely to be an increase in domestic abuse during the current lockdown. This has already been the case in other countries who have dealt with the coronavirus pandemic ahead of the UK.

An estimated 1.6 million women and 786,000 men in England and Wales experienced domestic abuse in the year ending March 2019. Experts say that health worries and fears about income could increase the risk of domestic abuse cases.

We want you to know that there is help out there if you are going through a tough time right now.

Domestic violence is often perceived as only being physical abuse, but this is not the case. It can also be emotional, sexual, psychological and financial. If you are in such a situation and are worried for your safety and/or the safety of your children, then please contact us for free, confidential advice. We can seek Court Orders to protect you  and put you in touch with various agencies who can support you.

What is a 'non-molestation order'?

A non-molestation order is an injunction which prohibits the other party from:

  • Harassing, intimidating or pestering you;
  • Threatening or using violence towards you and/or your children;
  • Coming within a certain range of your home or place of work;
  • Damaging or attempting to damage any property;
  • Contacting you – including sending threatening or abusive letters, texts or other communication or posting derogatory, insulting, threatening or harassing posts about you on any form of social media.

A non-molestation order is made in the Family Court. We can apply for the Order without giving the other party notice of the application. Once the Order has been granted, a copy is served on the other party and a copy is lodged with the Police. If the other party breaches the Order, the Police have the power to automatically arrest them. It is a criminal offence to breach a non-molestation order and the Court has the power to impose a prison sentence of up to five years, a community service order and/or a fine. The non-molestation order can remain in place for a period of 12 months, but we can apply to extend this if necessary.

What is an 'occupation order'?

You may be worried about having to leave your home if you report the domestic abuse. We can also apply for an occupation order on your behalf, which excludes the other party from residing at your home. These types of Order are not usually made without notice to the other party as it is a draconian measure to exclude someone from a property when they have legal rights to be there. The Court has to decide whether it is fair and reasonable for you to continue to reside there and for the other party to be excluded on what is known as the 'balance of harm test'.

We can advise you on all your options. Our team is working remotely throughout the pandemic and we are only a phone call or email away. Legal Aid is available for this area of law, subject to your financial position. We can quickly carry out a Legal Aid assessment for you and any Orders can be sought from the Court remotely during the current pandemic.

We can also advise you in relation to any concerns you may have regarding your children and their safety as well as divorce, separation, property and financial matters. Please contact us for confidential advice by calling 0113 201 4900 or emailing family.law@emsleys.co.uk.

Lorraine Ridley

Written by

Lorraine Ridley

Family Law

Lorraine began her legal career in 1994 and has specialised in family law since 1999, qualifying as a Chartered Legal Executive in 2008. She is a member of Resolution, an organisation promoting a non-confrontational approach to family law. She advises on all aspects of family law from divorce and financial...

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