Getting an injunction if you’ve been a victim of domestic abuse
Domestic abuse can take many forms. Frequent examples that we come across include verbal abuse, physical abuse, psychological abuse and sexual abuse although this is not an exhaustive list.
Types of Injunction
Both non-molestation orders and occupation orders are types of injunctions which can offer you protection from your abuser. They are Court Orders that prohibit someone from doing something that is causing you harm
Part IV of the Family Law Act 1996 defines the two main types of injunctions:
- A Non-Molestation Order can be used to prevent your partner, former partner or an associated person from being violent towards you or any children. It prevents this person from using threatening behaviour towards you. It also prevents intimidation, harassment and pestering (including in-person or remotely by letter, email, phone or social media) to ensure both your own and your children's safety.
- An Occupation Order can be used when the future occupation of a property is in dispute. This Order defines who can live in the family home and can extend to preventing your abuser from being in the surrounding area. One person could effectively be required to leave the home because of their violent behaviour towards you or the effect that their presence is having on your children.
Breaching a Non-Molestation Order or Occupation Order is a criminal offence and a power of arrest is automatically attached to these types of Injunction. A copy of the Injunction, once granted and served on the respondent, is lodged with the Police so they can act on any breaches. If you have an injunction in place the Police will take action regardless of whether your abuser (the respondent) has committed any other criminal offences.
Who can apply for an injunction?
You must be classed as an ‘associated person’ to apply for an injunction under the FLA 1996. This means that you and your abuser must be associated with each other in one of the following ways:
- •You are/were married.
- •You are/ were in a civil partnership.
- •You are/were cohabitants.
- •You live/lived in the same household.
- •You are relatives.
- •You formally agreed to marry each other (even if this is no longer the case).
- •You have a child together.
- •You had an 'intimate relationship of significant duration'.
If you are applying for an occupation order, you must either have a legal right to occupy the home in question (as a joint or sole tenant or owner), or you have to be or have been, married to or living with a partner who is the owner or tenant of the property.
Obtaining an injunction
To obtain a Non-Molestation Order against your abuser, you must make an application to Court supported by a witness statement detailing the allegations of domestic abuse. Once your application is issued you will be referred to as the ’Applicant’ and the abuser will be referred to as the ‘Respondent’. You can either apply for the orders without notice to the respondent or on notice to the respondent.
If you are applying on notice to the respondent, that means the Respondent will be notified of your application and a Court hearing will be set which you will both be invited to attend. When applying for the Injunction it can be made clear if you require special measures, such as separate waiting areas or screens during the hearing if you do not want to be in contact with the Respondent whilst at Court.
During the first hearing of an on notice application, the Respondent will be asked whether he agrees or contests (disputes) the application and orders sought. If they admit the allegations against them (or fail to attend) then provided the court is satisfied the respondent has indeed had notice of the hearing date and time, the appropriate Injunction Order is usually made and the order is typically granted for six or 12 months - but this can be longer in some cases. Once expired, an application can be made to renew the Order if necessary.
If the Respondent denies the allegations or is not willing to leave the property, the case proceeds to a contested final hearing which is when the Judge will decide whether to make the Non-Molestation or Occupation Order or to dismiss the application or consider whether “undertakings” are appropriate (promises to the court in the same/ similar terms as the orders sought). Before any final hearing, you will have the opportunity to prepare further evidence to assist the Court in reaching a decision. Police disclosure can also be obtained if there has been previous police involvement concerning domestic abuse as well as evidence from any witnesses, if relevant and appropriate.
Applying for injunctions without notice “ex-parte”
If there is a risk that notifying your abuser of the application could induce more violence or intimidation and/or there is a risk the respondent may evade service of the court papers, then it is possible to apply to Court on an 'ex-parte' basis, without notice to them. This means your abuser is unaware of the application until after the initial hearing and only at the point upon which the application and any orders granted are served on them – (once the respondent has been “served” with the papers you are protected by the terms of any order made). As the respondent would not be in attendance at the initial hearing if you have applied without notice to them, the court will list a further hearing “return hearing” at which you are both invited to attend so that the Judge can either confirm the orders remain in place (and for how long), dismiss the application or consider whether “undertakings” are appropriate.
Domestic Abuse Solicitors
Ending a relationship on account of domestic abuse or any other forms of abuse can be difficult. Our team of legal aid family law solicitors specialise in domestic abuse cases and can assist with your situation and expand on the points set out above, as advice will be tailored to your specific circumstances.
Over the last 24 months, National Legal Service Solicitors has helped more than 2,500 survivors of abuse across our 19 branch offices secure Non-Molestation and Occupation Orders for those in need of protection along with Prohibited Steps, Child Arrangements and Specific Issue Orders.