If you have been a victim of domestic abuse, you may have a court order in place to protect you, either by preventing your abuser from entering your home or prohibiting them from the area in which your home is located. These are known as non-molestation and occupation orders (or “injunctions”). Injunctions can be issued by the family court even if your abuser has no criminal charges; those that regulate who lives in your home are called occupation orders. If you have heard of restraining orders, those will only be issued at the end of a criminal case.
If the court has issued an injunction to protect you, it is important to know your rights and what will happen if your abuser does not comply with the relevant court order.
What is an occupation order?
An occupation order is a type of injunction which allows the court to determine who should be allowed to live in the home. They can also be used to gain the right of entry to the property if, for example, your ex partner has changed the locks, or exclude people from the area surrounding your property. In some cases, it also stipulates who will be liable to pay for the mortgage and bills.
Occupation orders are only granted in serious circumstances, and often last for a period of 6 months so more permanent steps can be taken such as transfer of tenancy.
How long does it take to get an injunction?
How long it takes to get an injunction does depend on the situation at home. Before issuing an injunction, the court must assess what risks your current living situation pose to you and any minor children. The court will consider if there are grounds to grant a “without notice” order (literally done without notice to the opponent) and will set a later date for you to appear in front of the court for a full hearing once your abuser has been served with notice. In the situation where other family proceedings are already underway, it is also possible the court will want to wait until the full hearing to look at the case in full.
However, there are exceptions to this timescale. If you are in imminent danger for example and your abuser has avoided the serving notice or the court believes you will be prevented from applying if forced to wait, an injunction could be issued right away.
What happens if the occupation order is broken?
Breaking an occupation order is not automatically a criminal offence. However, an occupation order could have a power of arrest attached. If so, a breach can lead to a £5,000 fine and/or a prison sentence.
How do you apply for an injunction?
You can only apply for family law injunctions against certain categories of people such as ex partners and certain family members.
If you are suffering from domestic abuse, the full package of legal protection available and whether you have grounds to apply should be advised by a specialist family lawyer. It can otherwise be daunting to try and understand how to apply under different sections of the Family Law Act.
Contact us if you require help with this; as one of the UK’s most trusted providers of legal aid for domestic abuse victims, we are dedicated to offering expert legal guidance and professional representation.