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What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence, also known as ‘domestic abuse’, ‘DV’, or ‘intimate partner violence’, is generally an incident or pattern of incidents of abusive behaviour. Domestic abuse can take various forms, including (but not limited to) physical, emotional, sexual, and verbal abuse. Anyone can suffer from domestic abuse and anyone can be an abuser. For more information, read Domestic abuse and violence.

Interim measures

If you are experiencing domestic violence, one of the most difficult steps can be acknowledging that you are a victim.

An appropriate immediate step to take in the event of domestic violence is contacting the police and finding somewhere safe to stay. 

In England and Wales, the police may decide to make a domestic violence protection notice (DVPN) that allows them to put in place protection in the immediate aftermath of a domestic violence incident. These protections generally ban the alleged perpetrator of violence from returning to a residence and from having contact with the victim, with immediate effect. A DVPN must be reviewed by a magistrate after 48 hours (generally following a request for extension made by the police). The magistrate may decide to impose a domestic violence protection order (DVPO), which extends the restrictions for 14 to 28 days.

In Scotland, you can report a domestic violence incident to the local police or access the Domestic Abuse Disclosure Scheme.

Court orders

Consider speaking with a lawyer about the best way to protect yourself and your family from domestic violence. You can find a lawyer privately or seek one via a charity or support organisation (see ‘Getting help with domestic violence’ below).

There are 2 main legal remedies that can be granted by the court: non-molestation orders and occupation orders. You can make a request for either order using the government’s Form FL401 and there are no court fees for applying. You can use CourtNav’s free service to help you with your application. 

Non-molestation orders

In England and Wales, a non-molestation order is a type of injunction (ie a court order telling somebody to do or not do something) designed to prevent somebody’s partner or ex-partner from being violent or threatening violence or from intimidating, harassing, or pestering the person or their children. Non-molestation orders can be made against anyone who has demonstrated these types of behaviours and with whom the person applying for the order has had a close relationship (eg a spouse, civil partner, boyfriend or girlfriend, cohabitee, or family member. This type of order can apply to any sort of contact, including telephone, email, or social media contact).

In Scotland, the equivalent type of order is a 'non-harassment order'. A non-harassment order is a type of injunction designed to prevent a partner or ex-partner from deliberately causing someone alarm or distress. It can be made against anyone who is harassing you (eg a spouse, civil partner, boyfriend or girlfriend, cohabitee, or family member). However, you must know the identity of the person who is harassing you. This type of order can apply to any sort of contact.

Occupation orders

In England and Wales, occupation orders aim to deal with the situation where a person is living together in a shared family home with the perpetrator of domestic violence against them. The court can decide to order the perpetrator to move out and stay away from the home or may apply specific restrictions, such as requiring the perpetrator to sleep in a different bedroom. An occupation order may be granted in addition to a non-molestation order.

In Scotland, the equivalent type of order is an 'exclusion order'. This may also be granted in addition to a non-harassment order.

Domestic violence and divorce

Sometimes domestic violence leads to divorce; in other cases, it is a result of divorce. Either way, domestic violence can make it impossible to agree on the practical implications of a divorce, such as sorting out finances or deciding on arrangements for your children. You may need to go to court to decide on the important matters, which is often a more lengthy process. If tensions are resolved over time, you may then be able to use an online divorce service that can speed up the divorce.

Getting help with domestic violence

If you or your children are suffering from domestic violence and abuse, there are a number of organisations that may be able to help you. These include:

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