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Stewarts Solicitors

Expert solicitors throughout Northern Ireland

Domestic Violence & Harassment

Our Family Law Solicitors offer an initial consultation about domestic violence or abuse in a relationship.

For expert help call Stewarts Solicitors on Freephone 0800 783 6125 or contact us (link to contact page) and tell us how to contact you. Legal Aid may be available to you.

The government’s current definition of domestic abuse is “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”.

Domestic violence can also include many things, such as the constant breaking of trust, psychological games, harassment and financial control. It is rarely a one-off incident and is usually a pattern of abuse and controlling behaviour.

The law seeks to protect those people who find themselves in situations where they are subjected to such abuse. The family courts have the ability to make non-molestation and occupation orders.

You can apply for an ‘injunction’ if you’ve been the victim of domestic violence. An injunction is a court order that either:

  • protects you or your child from being harmed or threatened by the person who’s abused you – this is called a ‘non-molestation order’.
  • decides who can live in the family home or enter the surrounding area – this is called an ‘occupation order’.

If the person named in the injunction breaks it, they’re committing a criminal offence and can be arrested.

Non-Molestation Order

A non-molestation order can be made between two people who are or have been in a relationship or are related.

A non-molestation order is aimed at preventing your partner, ex-partner or family member from using or threatening violence against you or your child, or intimidating, harassing or pestering you, in order to ensure the health, safety and well-being of yourself and your children. Where the parties are living together at the time of the application, the application will commonly be made in conjunction with an application for an occupation order.

The Order can specifically state that such a person cannot ‘harass, annoy or intimidate you whether directly or indirectly or through a third person’.

Should the person breach the Order then they are liable to be arrested for breach of a court order and the appropriate criminal sanction imposed.

The Non-Molestation Order is available to a full range of ‘Associated’ persons.

This includes:

  • 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

Occupation Order

An occupation order regulates the parties’ use of a property. Commonly they will exclude one party from entering a property but can also allow one party to use a property in which they may not have a legal interest. It may also include dividing the property so that the parties have a designated area each. This Order is commonly made in conjunction with a Non Molestation Order.

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).

If you are subjected to the use or threat of physical violence you should contact the police immediately.

Stewarts Solicitors is a top family law firm for advising on domestic abuse and harassment.

Our experienced solicitors will ensure that you have a clear understanding of all the options available to you under the law. This will be on a cost-effective basis with thorough and sensitive attention given to your and your family’s needs (An assessment will be carried out in respect of Legal Aid eligibility).

The first step is to arrange a meeting with one of our solicitors. For expert help call Stewarts Solicitors on Freephone 0800 783 6125 or contact us (link to contact page) and tell us how to contact you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here our experience domestic violence solicitors and harassment solicitors answer some of the most frequently asked questions during our initial free solicitor consultation.

How quickly can I get an Order?

In emergency circumstances an application can be made against the relevant person without notice being given to them. This is called an “emergency order” and means you can have your application filed with the court and the Order obtained the same day as you provide instructions to the Solicitor.

You don’t have to tell the person you want protection from that you’re applying so it’s known as a ‘without notice’ or ‘ex-parte’ application. The court will hold a hearing which you must attend. It may issue an order at the hearing.

You’ll still have to tell that person about your application after the order has been issued.

An emergency order will usually last until you go to the court for your hearing.

What if a non-molestation order (“non-mol”) or occupation order is issued against me and I don’t accept the content of the statement and wish to challenge it?

If you are served with proceedings you are entitled to defend those proceedings, and set forward your own version of events.

Furthermore if it was in fact the Applicant, your ex-partner/spouse who was abusive then you can cross summons, apply for an Order against them, setting out their behaviour. The matter can then be listed for a hearing and the Judge can decide whether the Order against you should remain in place or if an order should be made against your spouse/ex-partner.

Alternatively the matter can be dealt with by undertakings, a short order be agreed or be withdrawn.

What is an undertaking?

If the proceedings have been issued against you, you can agree to give a promise, an “Undertaking” not to commit an act in the future. You do not have to admit that you did the act in the first place, simply that you have no intention of doing it in the future.

If you have suffered abuse the court sometimes suggests that, instead of an injunction, the abuser should make an undertaking (a promise) to the court not to harass or threaten you. While this is supposed to have the same strength as a court order, and breach of an undertaking constitutes contempt of court, in practice, undertakings cannot be enforced effectively, as powers of arrest cannot be attached. The court should never accept an undertaking where violence has been used or threatened, and you do not have to agree to accept an undertaking if you do not want to.

What evidence will be needed?

We will help in prepared the evidence the Court will require. You will need to make a sworn statement (sometimes called an affidavit) to the court about the physical and emotional abuse you have experienced. You should be as precise as possible about all the ways you have been physically and emotionally harmed, the dates and times (if you have them) and the effects on you and your children. It is important that the court is provided with as much evidence as possible of all aspects of harm caused by your partner or ex-partner’s abusive behaviour. It will help if you have kept a record of past events, or if you have independent evidence, such as police reports or medical records.

The court has discretion when deciding to make an order, and has to look at all the circumstances, including the likely effect of any order on the health, safety and well-being of you and your partner or ex-partner, your conduct in relation to each other, your needs, and your financial and housing resources.

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