Domestic abuse is a single or repetition of incidents of threatening behaviour by one party to another. Domestic violence can take many forms including physical and emotional abuse, such as;
-Physical or sexual abuse
-Physical or online harassment
Domestic violence is a problem that most people do not often think about, but one which nonetheless still happens. Victims of domestic abuse are amongst the most vulnerable people in society and require as much protection as possible.
Our family law department have vast experience in dealing with this very difficult problem and have undergone specialist Women’s Aid Domestic Violence training to support and advise victims of domestic violence. It is incredibly reassuring for you that you will have access to a solicitor who can understand what you are going through and how difficult it has been for you to seek help.
It is difficult to break the cycle of abuse but seeking help from a solicitor is the most effective step to make sure that you do not suffer any further abuse.
The Courts in Northern Ireland offer protection for victims of domestic abuse and your solicitor can advise you on the best approach to take. The two most common remedies to domestic violence are Non-Molestation Orders and Occupations Order.
A Non-Molestation Order will prohibit an abusive partner or former partner from using violence, threatening violence, harassing, or intimidating you in future. It is often necessary for our family solicitor to apply for this on an emergency basis ‘ex-parte’ which means your partner does not know about the application initially. This can be granted for a short time until a hearing date in listed in court. Your partner will then be served papers and they will then be made aware of proceedings. Remember at this stage you will be protected by the Order which has an immediate power of arrest should they breach it.
The Order can specifically state that such a person cannot ‘harass, annoy or intimidate you whether directly or indirectly or through a third person. Within the legislation you must be an ‘associated person’ to be able to apply. The range to people in Northern Ireland who can apply are listed below:
-People who are/have been married to each other;
-Cohabitants/former cohabitants; Certain relatives, e.g. father, mother, brother, sister, daughter, son;
-Persons who have agreed to marry;
-Persons who have a child together.
If you are living with a parent in Northern Ireland, we will consider making an Occupation Order Application at the same time as the Non-Molestation Order. This would have the effect of excluding the defendant from the family home or to prevent them from coming within a certain distance of the family home. For example, the Court may order that the Defendant does not come within 100 metres of the plaintiff or her children.
This is extremely useful when children are living with you and need to be protected from witnessing incidents of abuse and domestic violence.
If you are applying for an Occupation Order and do not have a legal entitlement to occupy the property, the court must apply a ‘balance of harm’ test (that is a test to determine who will suffer the most harm if an Order is not made).
Our legal team engage on a daily basis with specialist family law solicitor(s) and children’s law barristers, as well as counsellors and agencies supporting children and victims of domestic abuse in Northern Ireland. This leaves us well placed to advise on a wide range of problems that our clients may encounter such as domestic abuse.
Our solicitors understand the sensitive nature of domestic abuse cases and will ensure that all matters are kept confidential. The advice and representation that our solicitors offer will differ on a case-to-case basis. However, they will usually take the following approach when dealing with cases of this nature:
1.Initial Consultation – Talking about domestic abuse can often be one of the most distressing aspects of the whole process. Our family law solicitors are
extremely experienced and will know exactly the approach to take when you tell them what has happened.
2. If the matter needs to be addressed urgently, which is often the case with domestic abuse cases, then your solicitor will make an ‘ex parte’ Application for a Non-Molestation Order and/or an Occupation Order. This is an emergency Order that can be applied for in the absence of the defendant. If the application is successful, the Judge will put a temporary Order in place and set a review date for Hearing.
3. If the Judge grants the ‘ex parte’ Application the next step will be to serve the Order on the defendant. Your solicitor will then consult with you and take a detailed statement of evidence to put before the judge at the review Hearing. This will include details of the abuse you suffered, and any harm caused to you.
4. Review Hearing – The Judge will review your statement of evidence at the review Hearing and, if the defendant intends to defend the matter, will review any evidence put forward by their solicitors. Having considered the circumstances of the case, including potential risks posed to the plaintiff, the Judge will decide whether to uphold the Order or retract it. In certain cases, the Judge may alter the Order to reflect the level of risk posed to the plaintiff.