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Domestic Abuse

Domestic Abuse is an extremely serious concern for both men and women and can come in many different forms including violence, threats of violence, harassment, intimidation, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse and controlling behaviour.

At Fisher Jones Greenwood we are here to help and these pages provide details of how our lawyers can assist you as well as providing answers to frequently asked questions, setting out your options and putting you in touch with the right people.

We have an experienced team of expert solicitors working with men and women victims of domestic abuse who are able to help you from our offices in Colchester, Chelmsford,  BillericayClacton-on-Sea and Holland-on-Sea.

Legal Aid is still available for the victims of domestic abuse who are financially eligible.

If you have any questions about domestic abuse please contact us and ask to speak to one of our Domestic Abuse Specialists. Our service is entirely confidential.

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With over 40 years’ experience, Fisher Jones Greenwood is a long-established Essex Solicitors. With nine offices around Essex, Suffolk and London. Phone us on 08455 435 700 or email us and we’ll call you back to arrange a meeting with a solicitor or lawyer.

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Domestic Abuse FAQs

How FJG can help?

At Fisher Jones Greenwood we can help anyone suffering from significant domestic abuse who needs the protection of a court injunction. There are two types of injunction orders:

Non-Molestation Orders prevent someone from being violent, abusive, threatening, intimidating, attending at your workplace or communicating with you.

Occupation Orders which regulate the occupation of a family home and how costs such as rent or mortgage should be paid.

There are a wide range of people that we can help in these situations:

– Wives and former wives
– Husbands and former husbands
– Civil partners and former civil partners
– Cohabitants and former cohabitants
– Close relatives – such as parents, siblings, uncles, aunts
– Parties in an intimate relationship
– Same sex couples

In these situations, our experienced team of experts will look to help you as quickly and efficiently as possible:

Speed – Due to our proximity to the Colchester and Chelmsford courts, and the good working relationship our team have with the court staff, we can often obtain injunctions within one hour.

Convenience – We can meet clients in our offices in Colchester, Chelmsford, Billericay, Clacton-on-Sea and Holland-on-Sea. If it is necessary to attend court to give evidence, then the cost of travel to Court may also be covered by legal aid if you are eligible.

Experience – With experts based at all our office locations, our team has years of experience in dealing successfully with domestic violence cases and will make sure that you always get the best possible service.

We know how serious domestic violence can be, so if you are suffering from domestic abuse then please get in touch with our understanding team of Domestic Abuse Specialists today. As we deal with a wide range of services for individuals, we may also be able to help with any other family, matrimonial, housing, criminal or commercial problems that you may have.

Forced Marriages

A forced marriage is one where a party is coerced into entering the marriage against their will so that the marriage takes place without the willing consent (or lack of ability to consent with certain disabilities) of both parties.

Forced marriage is an abuse of human rights and a form of domestic/child abuse. It is never acceptable nor justifiable on religious, cultural or any other grounds. The UN Convention on Consent to Marriage states that “No marriage shall be legally entered into without the full and free consent of both spouses”.

A forced marriage is not the same as an arranged marriage. Arranged marriages are an important part of some cultures and religions. In an arranged marriage there is always a choice and either party can reject any proposed arrangement

Pressure to enter into a forced marriage may come in several forms including:

  • physical threats
  • physical abuse
  • emotional blackmail

Pressure may come from the other party to the proposed marriage, other family members, third parties or a mixture of both.

There are different remedies available to assist and protect, depending on whether the victim is an adult (over 18) or a child. We can help advise you on your options, assist you in accessing those remedies and discuss safety plans.

One possible remedy is a forced marriage protection order. An application can be made by a victim or certain third parties on their behalf. A power of arrest can also be attached which means that if the order is breached then the police can arrest the person or persons who breach the order.

If you have experienced a forced marriage or feel you are being forced into a marriage to which you do not consent, then please get in touch with our team of Domestic Abuse Specialists today – call 01206 835320, email [email protected] or by use the enquiry form at the top of this page.

Useful Links

Colchester & Tendring Women’s Refuge    T: 01206 500 585

Chelmsford Women’s Aid  T: 01245 493114

Basildon Refuge    T: 01268 581591

Safer Places  [email protected]    T: 03301 025811

Women’s Aid    T: 0117 944 4411

Shelter    T: 0808 800 4444

The Freedom Programme    T: 01547 520228 / 24 hour hotline: 0808 2000 247

Home Start    T: 0800 068 63 68

Essex Police    T: 01245 491 491 – Ask for the DVLO (Domestic Violence Liason Officer)

Citizens Advice Bureau    T: 08444 770 808

Samaritans    T: 0845 7909 090

Chelmsford Borough Council Domestic Abuse Page

Colchester Borough Council

Forced Marriage Unit on the FCO website

Mankind Initiative

What is domestic abuse?

The Home Office defines domestic abuse as:

“any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass but is not limited to the following types of abuse:

  • psychological
  • physical
  • sexual
  • financial
  • emotional

Controlling behaviour is: a range of acts designed 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, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour. Coercive behaviour is: an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.”.

Who can apply for an injunction order?

To apply for an injunction order under the Family Law Act 1996 a person has to be associated to the other person. Associated persons are spouses/civil partners, former spouses/former civil partners, co-habitants/former co-habitants, close relatives, for example, a parent or a brother/sister, parties in an intimate relationship or same-sex couples.

If I am not associated to the other person what help can I receive?

If you cannot apply for an injunction order under the Family Law Act e.g. because you are having problems with a neighbour then you can seek assistance from the Police. The Police do have powers under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 to prosecute a person who is causing harassment to another.

What types of injunction order are there?

There are two types:-

  1. Non-molestation order which prevents a person from acting in a certain manner, for example not to use violence, not to intimidate, pester or harass or not to communicate with the victim.
  2. Occupation order which regulates the occupation of a property. An occupation order can exclude one party from a property entirely or regulate how the property should be lived in. Orders can also be made for the payment of mortgage or rent and maintenance of the property.

How do I apply for an injunction order and how much will it cost?

Legal aid is available for victims of domestic abuse subject to financial circumstances. You will need to bring details of your financial circumstances with you when you come to see us and we will check your eligibility if you wish to apply for legal aid.

In the first instance, we will always consider your eligibility for legal aid. In some cases where you are assessed as eligible for legal aid, it may still be necessary for you to make a contribution on a monthly basis from your income or a lump sum from any capital you may have.

If you are not eligible for legal aid your fees will vary depending on the complexity of the case and the duration of any hearings listed.  We will provide you with an estimate of the likely fees which you will incur at your first meeting with us. Expenses may also be incurred in relation to the service of court orders.

We will make your application to the court supported by a statement by you setting out the grounds for the application and what orders you are seeking. The application is issued by the court quickly and a hearing date is fixed at short notice, usually within a week. In cases of extreme urgency an order may be made the same day. We have offices close to the court buildings and a good relationship with the court staff which means that we can act quickly.

How long will it take to obtain an injunction order and how long will it last?

If you are in immediate danger, we can make the application to court on the same day without the other person being there. This is called a ‘without notice application’. In order to grant an application for an order without notice the court will need to be satisfied that: you or any child are at risk of significant harm if an order is not made immediately; you will be deterred or prevented from applying to the court by the other person if you have to wait; or the other person is likely to avoid being served with notice to appear before the court and you or any child are likely to be prejudiced by any delay . If the court grants a ‘without notice’ order, you may have to return to court for a full hearing once the other person has been served with the order and, of course, if they decide to challenge the order.

If the application is on notice, the other person will be told of the date of the hearing and generally the court will allocate the first available date a few days later.

Orders are normally for a specified period of time but can be renewed. Generally, they are valid for one year. In extreme cases, an order can be granted for an indefinite period of time.

What happens if an injunction order is breached? Will the police take it seriously?

A non-molestation order comes with an automatic power of arrest. An occupation order can have a power of arrest attached if there have been violence or threats of violence. If a power of arrest has been attached, once the order has been served on the other person it will then be served upon your local police station. If there is a power of arrest and the other person ignores the terms of an injunction order and commits a breach, you would need to call the police. They can arrest them immediately as the breach of an injunction order is a criminal offence. If found guilty the offender can be punished with up to 5 years imprisonment or a fine or both.

Will I have to go to court to obtain the injunction? Will the hearing be made public and who is allowed in court?

The application will be in a private court (generally at the local county court) and no one who is not directly concerned with your case will be allowed in. This means neither you nor the other person will be allowed to take a friend or member of the family in with you, but they can stay in the waiting room. No members of the public will be in court and therefore your privacy will be respected.

Can the court force the other person to leave the house? If so will they have to continue to pay the mortgage or rent?

An occupation order will set out who can live in the family home, or how you live in the property, for example use of different parts at different times, and can also restrict the other person from entering the surrounding area. If you do not feel safe living with the other person, or if you have left home because of violence, it may be possible to obtain an occupation order to allow you to return . The court will apply a ‘balance of harm’ test when deciding whether to make the order. The main considerations taken into account by the court are: the housing needs and housing resources of each of the parties and of any relevant child; the financial resources of each of the parties; the likely effect of any order on the health, safety or well-being of the parties and of any relevant child; and the conduct of the parties in relation to each other. Where an occupation order is in force the court can also state who should pay the rent or mortgage and other outgoings on the property, who has to maintain the property and whether the party in occupation should pay a “rent” to the other person. This is of course dependant on the financial circumstances of the case.

Will an injunction order prevent the other person from seeing the children?

This depends on the circumstances of the case. If there has been abusive behaviour towards you with the children present or towards the children directly then the court will have to consider what contact with the children should take place, if any. If you are happy for contact to take place with the children then this can be arranged. We can advise you what steps can be taken to ensure that the children and you are safeguarded.

The other person has never hit me, but he is emotionally abusive and threatening. Can I still get an injunction order?

Yes. It is still possible to obtain a non-molestation order against the other person, despite there having been no violence. When the court decides whether to exercise its powers, the court shall have regard to all the circumstances of your case including the need to secure the health, safety and wellbeing of both you and any relevant children. The behaviour can also include conduct that does not amount to violent behaviour and applies to any conduct which can be regarded as constituting a degree of harassment that requires intervention. It would also be necessary to show the impact that the behaviour is having upon you and also, if relevant, your children.

It can be slightly harder to obtain an occupation order where there has been no direct violence but again it does depend on the circumstances of your case. As set out above the court will need to apply the balance of harm test when making any decision. I am scared as to how the other person might react when he/she knows about the injunction order. How can I be protected?

As soon as the other person is made aware of the terms of a non-molestation order, normally by being handed the papers by a trained process server instructed by us, they are bound by those terms. If they breach the order then that should be reported to the police who should take action to enforce the injunction.

What happens if we reconcile, will the injunction order still remain in place? If we want it discharged, what do I have to do?

The order will remain in place until either it comes to an end on the expiry date, or the court makes an order discharging it. If you were to reconcile with the other person you should apply to the court for the injunction to be discharged. This requires the completion of a simple form in which you will be required to provide information as to the reason why you wish to discharge the order. The Judge may well make the order without you needing to attend court, or may wish to see you to establish that by discharging the order they will not be leaving you or any children in a vulnerable or dangerous position.

If you reconcile and you leave the injunction order in place, there is a risk that, if the police become aware that the other person is in breach of the terms of the order, they could be arrested and charged.

Will the fact that I have not reported their behaviour to anyone before, such as the police, affect my chance of getting an injunction?

No it will not. The majority of domestic abuse goes on behind closed doors and is never reported to the police. Of course, some victims are concerned that, if they were to report the behaviour to the police, and the police did not take any action, they would be at even greater risk of suffering harm. Therefore the court does not necessarily expect you to have reported any behaviour to the police before. When making an application to the court you will be required to make a statement supported by a statement of truth. This confirms to the court that you are telling the entire truth. In the first instance, the court will rely on your statement. If the other person wishes to challenge the order, then the court will list a hearing where you would both be given the opportunity to give evidence and a Judge would decide who was telling the truth.

If I do not want to proceed with an injunction order, what else can be done?

We fully understand that every case is different, and may not always be appropriate for an injunction. In some cases a simple warning letter to the other party is sufficient. It makes clear the reasons why their behaviour is inappropriate and that it must not continue. They are informed that if their behaviour does not change then you apply to the court for an injunction order.

Will social services be told about my the other person’s abusive behaviour?

Social services will not automatically be informed of the other person’s abusive behaviour unless you or another party has informed them. If the police have been called as a result of the other person’s abusive behaviour and the police are concerned about the welfare of any children concerned then the police can themselves make a referral to social services. The fact that you intend to apply to the court for an injunction will show social services that you are safeguarding the children.

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