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Legal Options

This section is intended to be an overview in relation to the legal terminology you may encounter.

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It is advisable to take the appropriate advice from the legal profession to ensure the action you jointly decide on with your support worker is the one most pertinent to your situation.

Occupation Order

Occupation orders enable the court to regulate who lives in the family home. It can include several different provisions, such as requiring the respondent to leave the property or to allow the applicant to enter and remain there. It can cover situations whereby the property is jointly owned or rented.

How do you get an Occupation Order?

The test for such orders is known as the 'balance of harm' test. The court will consider the harm suffered by the applicant or relevant child, and whether they are likely to suffer significant harm if the court does not make the order. This will be weighed up against the harm suffered by the respondent or relevant child if the order is made. Section 33(7) of the Family Law Act states that the court must make an order if the test is met.

Even if the 'balance of harm' threshold is not satisfied, the court still has the ability to grant the order. It will examine all the circumstances of the case, including the housing needs and resources of the parties, their financial resources, the likely effect of the order, and the conduct of the parties. It must be remembered that the making of an occupation order is a severe step for the court to take - and this is reflected in the level of discretion given to the court

Non-Molestation Order

A non-molestation order prevents the abuser from being violent or threatening violence against you or your child. It also includes intimidation, harassment, or pestering.

Can I apply for a non-molestation order & I am eligible for Application?

In order to apply for such an order, both the applicant and respondent must be 'associated persons'. This includes people who are married or have been married, civil partners and people who cohabit or people who have previously cohabited. It also covers those who have had 'an intimate personal relationship' which was of 'significant duration' (such as partners who did not live together.)

What does 'Molestation' mean?

'Molestation' can be a somewhat confusing term, but it is one which is viewed widely in practice. It can include violence or threats of violence as well as actions such as nuisance phone calls or text messages. The court will expect that there has been a level of harassment in order to warrant its intervention - in other words, the respondent has acted deliberately so as to harass the applicant. Whilst this is a broad approach, it means that it can cover a multitude of scenarios that constitute domestic abuse.

What is contained in a non-molestation Order?

The Order can contain one or both of the following provisions:

  • A prohibition on the respondent from molesting another person who is associated with them.
  • A prohibition on the respondent from molesting a 'relevant child' (a wide definition which gives the court a great deal of discretion.

Will the order be granted?

In deciding whether to grant a non-molestation order, the Act sets out a test that the court must consider, which has regard to:

All of the circumstances of the case, including the need to secure the health, safety and well-being of both the applicant and any relevant child.
How long does a non-molestation order last?

Non-Molestation Orders can be made for a specified period, or until the court makes another order, which again affords the court a great deal of flexibility.

What happens if the abuser breaches the Non-Molestation Order?

Importantly, breach of a Non-Molestation Order is a criminal offence. Those guilty of breaching such an order can be imprisoned, fined, or both. In the event that a prosecution occurs, this would be dealt with by the Crown Prosecution Service and a specialist solicitor would need to be consulted.

Who is eligible to apply for an injunction?

In order for you to apply for one of these orders you must be an 'associated person'. This means you and your partner or ex-partner must be related or associated with each other in one of the following ways:

  • You are or have been married to each other.
  • You are or have been in a civil partnership with each other;
  • You are cohabitants or former cohabitants (including same sex couples)
  • You live or have lived in the same household.
  • You are relatives.
  • You have formally agreed to marry each other (even if that agreement has now ended).
  • You have a child together (this can include those who are parents of the same child, and those who have parental responsibility for the same child).
  • Although not living together, you are in an “intimate relationship of significant duration”.
  • You are both involved in the same family proceedings (e.g. divorce or child contact).

A Prohibited Steps Order

(PSO) is an order granted by the court in family cases which prevents either parent from carrying out certain events, or making specific trips with their children without the express permission of the other parent. This is more common in cases where there is suspicion that one parent may leave the area with their children. Other applications of this type of order could be to:

  • prevent the child associating with someone who has an adverse influence
  • prevent medical treatment
  • prevent the child being permanently removed from the country

A Specific Issue Order

Either parent of the child can make an application to the Court to determine a SPECIFIC ISSUE concerning the child. It can be on any matter related to Parental Responsibility. For example:

  • which school the child should attend
  • whether the child should receive medical treatment
  • how religion should be included in the child’s upbringing
  • whether the parent with care can take the child to live abroad

Forced Marriage Protection Orders

How can they protect me?

A Forced Marriage Protection Order is unique to each case, it contains legally binding conditions and directions that change the behaviour of a person or persons trying to force someone into marriage. The aim of the order is to protect the person who has been, or is being, forced into marriage. The court can make an order in an emergency so that protection is in place straightaway.

The court can:-

Make a Forced Marriage Protection Order to protect a person facing forced marriage or who has been forced into marriage.

Applications for forced marriage protection orders can be made at the same time as a police investigation or other criminal proceedings. Someone who disobeys a court order can be sent to prison for up to two years for contempt of court; but breach of a Forced Marriage Protection Order is also a criminal offence with a maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment.

Be safe and cover your tracks!

See our guide on how to cover your tracks and stay safe on the internet.

If you are in an abusive relationship and your abuser has access to your computer, it is important that you take precautionary steps to hide your internet activities. If you know that your abuser has access to the computer that you use, the best safety measure to take is to use another computer.

Learn how

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