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I want to leave my abusive Partner- How can I protect myself and my children?
For the purpose of this Article, the term ‘partner’ can include your husband, wife, civil partner and unmarried partner or those who are living together (co-habiting). Domestic abuse/violence is widely defined by the Government as ‘any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse’, which includes, but is not limited to the following types of abuse:
- Physical abuse
- Psychological abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Financial abuse
- Sexual abuse
The term ‘abuse’ doesn’t just cover the behaviour listed above but can also include controlling and coercive behaviour. ‘Controlling behaviour’ includes a range of acts that aim to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistances and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour. ‘Coercive behaviour’ is defined as an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten the victim.
If you think that this describes your situation with your partner, keep reading to see how we at Johnson Astills can help.
Reporting this behaviour
- If you are in immediate danger, you can contact the police on 999
- If it is not an emergency, you can report a crime by calling 101 (please note there is a charge for these calls)
If you report the abuse to the police, this may mean that your partner is taken away from the home and conditions may be put in place to prevent them from contacting you and/or returning to the home whilst the police investigate or whilst there are court proceedings. If your partner admits to the crime or is found guilty, they will be sentenced to either a term of imprisonment or a community-based sentence, or a fine. You should be provided with a named contact at the police who you can contact for information. The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime details your entitlements as the victim of a crime. You can find a copy online here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-code-of-practice-for-victims-of-crime
Whilst the police undergo their investigation, your partner may be released with bail conditions in place not to contact you or come near your home. If there are no bail conditions, or the current bail conditions are coming to an end, and you feel that you need protection you can apply to the Family Court for Orders to protect yourself. Alternatively you may have decided not to pursue any action with the police, or you may have reported matters to the police but still require further assistance with family issues.
What Court Orders can I get to prevent further abuse?
You may be anxious as to how your partner will react if you have decided to report the abuse, or if you have decided to end the relationship. You may feel at risk of immediate harm from your partner, in which case you can apply to the Court for a Non-Molestation Order. A Non-Molestation Order is an order made by the Family Court which forbids your partner from being abusive towards you, and/or your child(ren).
Common examples of terms that might be included in a Non-Molestation Order are:
- Your partner must not use or threaten violence against you and must not instruct, encourage or in any way suggest that any other person should do so.
- Your partner must not intimidate, harass, or pester you, and must not instruct, encourage or in any way suggest that any other person should do so.
- Your partner must not telephone, text, email or otherwise contact or attempt to contact you (including via social networking websites or other forms of electronic messaging), except for the purpose of making arrangements for contact between your partner and any relevant child(ren).
- Terms can be inserted into a Non-Molestation Order to prohibit your partner from entering or approaching with a certain distance of your home address, or other relevant addresses, for example your work place, if relevant.
Any breaches of a Non-Molestation Order amount to a criminal offence, which will be dealt with by the police and can lead to a term of imprisonment of up to five years and result in your partner having a criminal record, if found guilty of the breaches. If you have a Non-Molestation Order in place, and believe your partner to be breach of that Order, then you should call the police straight away.
Can I force my partner to leave the family home?
If your partner has no right to live in the family home, you can ask the police to help you remove them from the home or you can refuse them entry to your home. If your partner has a right to live in the family home then you can apply to the Court for an Occupation Order. This is an order from the Court that regulates who lives at the family home orders can be made for the exclusion of an abusive person from the family home.
Occupation Orders are only used in serious circumstances and there is stringent criteria in place because when such orders are granted, they are considered to be severe in nature and, in effect, are making the person who is ordered to leave the family home homeless. In this regard, the Court will give careful consideration as to whether your partner does, in fact, have any alternative addresses at which they can live, together with consideration as to whether they have sufficient financial means to fund alternative accommodation. Occupation Orders can be useful in enforcing a right to remain in the property, as well as excluding individuals from the property.
Common examples of terms that might be included in an Occupation Order are:
- Your partner must move out of the home or stay away from the home.
- Your partner must keep a certain distance away from the home.
- Your partner must allow you access into the home if they have locked you out.
- Your partner must continue to pay the mortgage, rent, or bills.
When deciding whether to grant an Occupation Order, the Court will consider the balance of harm test, as well as having regard to the housing needs and housing/financial resources of both parties, the conduct of both parties and the likely effect of an Order made on the health, safety and well being of the children.
If you feel that you are in a situation where you may need protection from your partner/ex-partner, or that you need help removing them from the family home please get in touch with a member of the Domestic Violence and Abuse Department (DVAD), by calling our Leicester Office on 0116 255 4855.