Domestic violence and the law
Domestic violence is illegal, so if it's happening to you, you have the weight of the law on your side.
On the Mumsnet Talk boards, posters who've been through it urge other Mumsnetters to invoke the law - many say that, with hindsight, they believe they left it too long before they acted. So here's the lowdown on domestic violence and the law.
Domestic violence: your legal options
- You can apply for a civil court order. This is a document that names your partner and tells him he must not hurt or harass you (a non-molestation order).
- It can order him to keep away from your home, and from you (an occupation order).
- A court order is dealt with under civil law proceedings, either in a county court or in a family court. Most women who apply for a court order do so with help from a solicitor.
- Once you have an injunction in place, if the order is broken then your ex-partner can be arrested.
- Injunctions usually have a time-period associated with them - for example, six months - but they can be renewed. Sometimes they are made 'until further notice'.
Getting legal advice
You don't have to have a solicitor to apply for an injunction, but it's usually very helpful. Also, it's worth trying to find a solicitor who has experience of domestic abuse cases. To find the right solicitor, contact your local Women's Aid. The Law Society and Citizens Advice will also be able to give you a list of family solicitors in your area.
If you are seeking protection from domestic violence (eg a non-molestation order or occupation order) then you qualify for legal aid regardless of your income. (Recently, the government mooted plans to cut legal aid in cases of domestic abuse; there was outrage, including from Mumsnetters, followed by a rethink.)
If you are on a low income or receiving state benefits (eg Income Support, Job Seekers Allowance), you may be eligible for civil legal aid. Your partner's income isn't taken into account if you are taking legal action against him.
How long will an injunction take?
Once you've decided to act, you need things to happen quickly. And they can - if you're in immediate danger, an application can be made to the court on the same day, and your partner doesn't need to be there.
• Domestic violence support
• Domestic abuse during pregnancy
• Domestic violence help
• Talk: relationships
Sometimes the court suggests that, instead of an injunction, your (ex) partner makes an undertaking, or promise, not to harass or threaten you. This should have the same strength as a court order and a breach of it constitutes contempt of court.
But, and this is an important but, an undertaking does not involve the powers of arrest that an injunction has, so it should not be used or suggested where violence has been used or threatened.