If you are affected by domestic abuse then it is important to know how the law can help you. This will depend on your specific circumstances as we need to assess the quickest and most effective way to provide you with adequate protection. Regardless of whether you seek legal advice, you should remember that you can also seek help from other sources including external organisations, friends and family. For example, Fife Women’s Aid offers assistance including refuge and women’s support services such as counselling. It is also crucial to identify that you are being subjected to this type of behaviour and to seek advice as soon as possible. There is a common misconception that domestic abuse has to involve violence. Domestic abuse can take numerous forms and can include controlling and manipulative behaviour including emotional blackmail. Statistics show that more women are subject to domestic abuse than men however, men are also victims and this should not be forgotten.
In terms of legal remedies, we can apply to court for certain orders designed to provide you with protection. The type of order we will seek depends on your specific circumstances. Regardless of your status, if you are living with someone who is subjecting you to domestic abuse or threatening such abuse, an exclusion order can afford you protection. An application for such an order has to be reasonable and justified. The application must also include an additional order for example, to eject the person from the property or to stop the person entering the property or removing furniture from the property. Once granted, the exclusion order shall ensure that person is preventing from living with you in the same property. Such an order will also include a power of arrest which means that the police are informed and if the order is breached, the person shall be arrested.
If you are married or in a civil partnership then you can seek a matrimonial interdict. This could restrain or prohibit the conduct of the person towards you or the child of the family. This could stop the person entering or remaining in the family home or any other residence occupied by you, your place of work or any school attended by the child.
If you do not live with the person concerned, an interdict can also be applied for although it is not referred to as a ‘matrimonial interdict’. Again, this is an order to stop someone from carrying out or continuing to carry out certain wrongful acts. If this is granted and the Court agrees that this relates to domestic abuse and grants a power of arrest, the person will be found guilty of a criminal offence if they breach this.
Non Harassment Orders
This can help if you are subjected to behaviour which is deliberately carried out to cause you harm or distress and this makes you feel upset and afraid. For example, repeated messages or someone shouting abuse at you. In most instances you will need to show there has been a “course of conduct” which amounted to harassment e.g. numerous incidents of this type of behaviour. However, one incident shall suffice if there is already a domestic abuse interdict in place. If this is not complied with it is a criminal offence and the person can be arrested. This may also lead to imprisonment and/or a fine.
It may be that you have separated from the person subjecting you to the domestic abuse. If this is the case and you have a child together, it is relevant to consider the impact of this upon the child and the child’s welfare in general. If the person who displays such behaviour has raised an action at court in respect of the child/children of the relationship, then this cannot be overlooked. There is a recognised need in law to protect a child from abuse or the risk of abuse and the court has to have regard to the wider issues for example, that person’s ability to care for or meet the needs of the children.
Separate to the civil remedies above, if you are a victim to violent crime then you may be entitled to criminal injuries compensation. This can be sought following one incident or following a period of abuse. Applications must be submitted 2 years from the date of the injury although in limited circumstances this can be increased.
The law has developed over the years in relation to domestic abuse and as mentioned above, there are helpful legal remedies on offer. There is also greater awareness of domestic abuse and organisations working hard to help victims. If you require legal advice or assistance in relation to domestic abuse or any associated matter, please do not hesitate to contact us.