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Domestic Abuse FAQs

Covid-19 and Domestic Abuse

Since the coronavirus stay at home period began, the statistics on domestic abuse and/or violence have increased massively. If you’re suffering from domestic abuse or violence at the moment, you might think there’s little that you can do, but that’s not right. We can help you now.

First of all, domestic abuse isn’t necessarily physical. It can take the form of

  • Financial control
  • Online abuse
  • Coercive control (manipulating someone to act against their wishes)
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Threats or threatening behaviour
  • Calling you names or using ‘put downs’
  • Damaging your property
  • Threatening to harm others that you love
  • Controlling your contact with friends, family or work
  • Threatening to harm themselves if you leave or seek help

If you’re living in the same household as the person who is carrying out the abuse, then the law can protect you. Due to the lockdown, there are a lot of different situations and people that this can cover:

  • Married people and people in a civil partnership;
  • Unmarried partners living together
  • Ex-spouses, civil partners or partners
  • Members of the same family
  • People living in the same property but not in a relationship (this could include different tenants sharing a house)

There’s quite a few other categories of people who can seek protection from domestic abuse; the ones we’ve given above are probably the ones which fall under the stay at home requirements.

First things first. If someone in the groups we’ve mentioned above has assaulted or used physical violence against you, you should call the PSNI. It’s their duty to arrest the person who did this.

If it’s not so clear that a crime has been committed and the police don’t feel that they can therefore remove someone from the house, then you should contact us immediately.

Even with social distancing, we can speak to you by phone or via Skype or Zoom, and we can ask the Court to make an order that will protect you. More on that in a moment.

Most importantly, we listen to you, and we’re there for you. Dealing with domestic abuse is incredibly difficult at the best of times, and during the current coronavirus lockdown, it probably feels that you have no escape. You do, and we can help you secure that means.

In most cases, a Court has the option to make one or both of the following orders.

Non Molestation Order

This prohibits someone from threatening or using violence against you and/or your children, and from ‘molesting’ you or them. In this context, ‘molest’ means the types of domestic abuse we talked about in an earlier question.   The Order also prohibits the person getting or encouraging someone else to use or threaten violence against you.

It’s a criminal offence to breach this order, so you can call the police if the person continues to commit domestic abuse against you.

Occupation Order

An Occupation order can prevent someone who has carried out domestic abuse against you from entering your home or, in certain cases, specific areas of your home.  It can set out something of an exclusion zone around your home as well, thereby preventing the perpetrator from coming within a certain distance of where you are living.

We know that there’s probably a belief that during this coronavirus stay at home period the Court might be reluctant to put someone out of their home, but our experience is that this is not the case. If the person has committed an act of domestic abuse and the Court is satisfied that an Occupation order is required to protect you, it will make that order.

The initial order will be made for 4 weeks from the Court granting it. After that, the Court will have a review hearing where it will hear from both parties. The Court can then decide to extend the order for a longer period, usually 12 months from the date of the initial order, although we’ve been involved in cases where orders have been made for 18 months, and exceptionally, longer than that.

It doesn’t matter. The Court can make an order saying that you are to remain there, even if that also means that the person who is being removed is the owner of the property.  Even if you’ve been thrown out or locked out by the person committing the domestic abuse, the Court can order that you are allowed back in.  

It doesn’t matter.  The Court can still order the named tenant to remove themselves from the property. We can help you in explaining the situation to the landlord once that happens.

Well, first of all, you may be able to get Legal Aid for the legal costs of going to court. We can chat to you about that right at the outset.

If you don’t qualify for Legal Aid, we’re offering a reduced rate fixed fee service during the stay at home period and until the rules on social distancing have been relaxed.  We normally need to receive a contribution from you at the outset to pay for the court fees and the initial hearing, and we can set up a payment plan for you to make the rest of the payments while your case is moving forward . The main thing is getting you into the court process as soon as we can.

Contact us now to set up a chat or a virtual meeting.

First of all, the stay at home period is not intended to be a bar against you taking action to protect yourself. The Court service has adapted very quickly to dealing with a lot of emergency cases remotely, so let us worry about the process! 

When we have a virtual meeting with you, it will be very much the same sort of format as a face to face meeting. We’ll take you through the steps, and draft an application for you. You will have to sign it, and we’ll talk to you about how you might be able to do that given your specific circumstances. We would just continue to stress – we will help you do this.

Will I have to go to Court, or appear via videolink or Zoom?

That’s a good question, and at the moment, we can’t be entirely certain of the process that will be used for your case, because different Judges and Courts may do things differently depending what’s happening more widely in the country at the particular time.

From what we’ve seen over the past few months, it is likely that you will NOT have to attend Court, and so far, none of our clients have had to appear remotely via Zoom, Skype or otherwise. Your solicitor will usually deal with the matter for you via video conference.

The legal profession and the Courts have been working together to make the whole process much easier around applying to Court during the coronavirus period, and we think that clients will find the temporary arrangements to be very convenient.

The Court send the Order to the PSNI and the PSNI serve it on the person you’ve complained about. The Court will serve the actual application we have lodged. The Order only takes effect when it is served on the other person (the Respondent). Once it is served then the Order is in place and the person may be committing a criminal offence if they breach it: you can report any breaches to the Police .

That’s the easiest question to answer. GET IN TOUCH RIGHT NOW. You can phone us during office hours, but you can email us at hello@armstrongsolicitors.com at any time, and our family law expert Sharon Taylor will contact you either to have an initial chat, or to set up a virtual meeting. You can also contact us via our website https://www.armstrongsolicitors.com/domestic-violence and we’ll be right back in touch.

You should report any injuries to your GP so that there is independent evidence of what has happened, which might strengthen your case. Keep a record of things which have happened because it’s sometimes hard to remember all of the things which have formed a history of abuse over a period of time. Try to keep some money, credit cards and essential items close at hand in case you need to leave the home urgently, and absolutely make sure you have your phone with you to be able to keep contact with supportive friends and family.