Category: Domestic Violence

No Fault Divorce and Domestic abuse proposals may be revived in the Queen’s Speech

Two key bills which have a major impact on family law face an uncertain future given the recent prorogation of Parliament. Both the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill and the Domestic Abuse Bill have been halted due to lack of parliamentary time.

As reported in the Law Gazette, both of the bills were a result of extensive cross-party work and follow years of campaigning for reform. As there was no cross-over motion pre-prorogation then if the Government brings the bills back the process may have to start from scratch in the next parliament.

A glimmer of hope comes from the Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg who has stated that the Domestic Abuse Bill is “likely” to be a feature in the new parliamentary session.

He heavily hinted that it will feature with in the Queen’s Speech, saying: “I can’t tell you what is precisely going to be in the Queen’s Speech but I think I can give a steer that it’d be a great surprise to all of us if this Bill was not revived very quickly.”

Parliament has been suspended by the Government and is due to return on 14 October 2019.

What evidence is required when applying for an occupation order?

Victims of domestic abuse should gather as much evidence as possible to support their case if they wish to apply for an occupation order.

Occupation orders are a type of injunction used to provide victims of domestic abuse with protection from their abuser and a safe place for them and their children to live.

If you meet the eligibility criteria to apply for an occupation order, then you will be required to gather as much evidence as possible to submit with your application. The more evidence you have, the better your chance of being granted an order.

Evidence may include:

Sworn statement

You will be required to write a sworn statement (sometimes called an affidavit) detailing the abuse that you have been subjected to and the effects that it has had on you and any children involved.

Although it may be painful and upsetting to recall events in detail, the more detailed and precise you can be, the better. If you know the dates and times that any of the incidents took place, then it is beneficial to record these in your statement.

Details about past events

Details about any past incidents should also be given as these can be useful in providing context to your case.

Independent evidence

If you can obtain any professional independent evidence like medical or police reports, then these will also strengthen your case.

The court will use the evidence you provide, and a ‘balance of harm’ and ‘core criteria’ test to consider the circumstances of your case in detail and the effects that an order would have on the health, wellbeing and safety of all parties involved.

If you require help, support, or legal advice relating to domestic abuseor occupation orders, please give our team of family law specialists here at Lund Bennett a call on 0161 927 3118.

What constitutes psychological domestic abuse?

Since 2015 the law has recognised that psychological or emotional abuse can be just as upsetting and damaging to individuals as physical abuse.

The Serious Crime Act 2015 made ‘controlling or coercive behaviour’ in an intimate or family relationship an offence in the UK. Earlier this year, Scottish Parliament also made psychological domestic abuse a crime under their new Domestic Abuse Act.

Physical domestic abuse tends to be much easier to identify that emotional abuse, but that doesn’t make it any less distressing for the victim.

The key behaviours that constitute psychological domestic abuse are:

  • Controlling a person’s day-to-day activities– this can include, but isn’t limited to, where they go, who they see, and what they wear.
  • Intimidating behaviour– any behaviour that makes another person feel scared, including shouting, acting aggressively and making threats.
  • Putting someone down– this includes behaviour that damages a person’s confidence and sense of self-worth like repeatedly putting another person down or calling them names.
  • Financial control– this refers to controlling behaviour relating to another person’s employment or finances and can include withholding money or preventing someone from getting a job.
  • Isolation– preventing a person from spending time or speaking with their friends and family.
  • Degrading behaviour– carrying out activities or enforcing rules that humiliate, degrade or dehumanise a person.
  • Emotional blackmail– using threats or emotional outbursts to control or manipulate another person.

One or two isolated incidents of any of the above behaviours is unlikely to constitute domestic abuse. The behaviours become an offence when they are used repeatedly and calculatedly by a perpetrator, resulting in serious alarm or distress for the victim.

If you are being subjected to domestic abuseand require legal advice or support, give our team of family law specialists here at Lund Bennett a call on 0161 927 3118.

Am I eligible to apply for an occupation order?

An occupation order can enforce safe living arrangement for victims of domestic abuse.

If you have suffered domestic abuse you may feel unsafe living in the same house as your perpetrator. An occupation order can be used to provide you with a safe place to live by regulating who can live in your family home.

How can an occupation order be used?

Occupation orders are flexible and can be used in a variety of ways to offer victims protection. Some of the commonest ways in which occupation orders are used in domestic abuse cases include:

  • To exclude someone from the family home.
  • To enforce the right to remain in or return to the family home.
  • To set out who pays for expenses relating to the family home.
  • To exclude someone from a defined area around the family home.

Eligibility to apply for an occupation order

In order to be eligible to apply for an occupation order you must be ‘associated’ with the other person in one of the following ways:

  • Married, in a civil partnership, or engaged.
  • Previously married or in a civil partnership.
  • Cohabiting in a family scenario.
  • In an intimate physical relationship for a significant length of time.
  • Have parental responsibility for the same child.

Occupation orders are only applicable in very serious cases as they can grant access to a property that a victim does not have a legal entitlement to and deny access to a perpetrator with legal entitlement.

The court will assess whether an occupation order is suitable for your individual case by applying two tests. The tests are called the balance of harm test and the core criteria test. These tests take into consideration the health, safety and well-being of the victim and any children involved and their related housing and resource needs.

If you require help, support, or legal advice relating to domestic abuseor occupation orders, please give our team of family law specialists here at Lund Bennett a call on 0161 927 3118.

67-year-old millionaire ordered by the Court to leave his home due to accusations of physical and emotional abuse towards Wife

The Family Division at the High Court heard that the Wife in this case, who is in her late 70s, was frightened of her husband, a 67-year-old millionaire from Essex, and took legal action against him. Judge Catriona Murfitt concluded that the Wife was likely to suffer ‘significant harm’ if the Husband stayed in the property any longer and therefore he was ordered to vacate the property.

The Husband went on to appeal this decision, stating that the ruling was ‘unfair’. Mr Justice Baker dismissed this appeal and told the Husband that he had ‘no prospect’ of overturning Judge Murfitt’s initial ruling. Mr Justice Baker went on to say that the Wife claimed ‘that for the duration of the marriage, she had been the emotional punch bag for his insecurities and frustrations’.

Mr Justice Baker said that Judge Murfitt held that the Wife was likely to suffer significant harm if an order was not made and that harm was greater than any harm which the Husband was likely to suffer from having to leave the property and he upheld this decision.

Occupation orders

If you are experiencing abuse following your separation or your former partner is acting in a vengeful manner and causing you to fear for your safety in the family home, as outlined in the case above, the Court can issue an occupation order against your former spouse.

An occupation order is an order setting out who has the right to stay, return, or be excluded from a family home. An occupation order doesn’t change the financial ownership of a home, it is usually a short-term measure and the length of time an occupation order lasts will depend on your circumstances. In many cases an order will last for between 6-12 months and some can be renewed. An occupation order can only be made for a property where you both live, did live, or intended to live in as the ‘family home’.

Our Family Law specialists are here to help and can provide the proper advice and guidance you need. You can talk to us in complete confidence about the legal steps you can take to bring your abuser to justice, to feel safe in the former matrimonial home and to legally end your relationship. Please contact us for an initial consultation today on 0161 927 3118.

Men Who Aren’t Breadwinners Face A Higher Risk of Divorce

Even though society has moved on from men being the sole breadwinners in relationships, recent findings suggest that those men who don’t fulfil this traditional role are more likely to end up divorced.

The idea that a husband’s job and, more importantly, whether that job is full or part time job have a big influence on the success of marriage is a controversial one but a paper written by Harvard sociology professor Alexandra Killewald shows results that this is the case.

The report does go on to suggest that wages themselves are not a deciding factor in the likelihood of divorce, the women in those relationships still seem more likely to stick with men who fulfil their stereotypical role according to the study.

Couples who took part were married both pre- and post-1974 in the study Money, Work, and Marital Stability: Assessing Change in the Gendered Determinants of Divorce. Interestingly divorce was found to be less likely among those marrying pre-1974 when it came to men not fulfilling their traditional breadwinning role.

This may in part have been due to more women taking responsibility for housework than men. Since the 70s, women are far more likely to be going out to work and contributing significantly to household finances which might also be a factor.

It is possible that even though women are earning and more likely to be in full time employment than they were pre-1974 many are still not prepared to assume the role of breadwinner in their marriages and these tensions can result in divorce.

Does Divorce Still Have A Strong Impact On Child Psychological Wellbeing?

Various studies into the psychological effects of divorce on children over many years have often revealed negative impacts on wellbeing. A recent article in the independent highlights that despite many positive changes that consider the impact on children, long term effects are remain present leading to poor educational attainment and emotional difficulties.

While some of these effects may not be exclusively due to divorce, evidence from recent studies show that it is a factor. The article highlights that a study on children with exceptionally high IQs which began in the 1920s showed a negative effect on how long those subjects lived even if it didn’t have an effect on their IQs.

The effects in this study were shown to be long term and less obvious as those who took part showed no noticeable differences to the children who hadn’t seen their parents’ divorce.

A study which covers an even longer period starting in Sweden in the 19th century and covering more than a century showed that there has been little change in educational attainment and psychological wellbeing in children of divorced parents in that time.

The conclusion to draw from this is that while divorce is unavoidable for many couples, the welfare of children involved should always be considered a top priority.

Two Thirds of Domestic Abuse Victims Unaware Of Eligibility For Legal Aid

The well-publicised reports of domestic abuse concerning Amber Heard and Johnny Depp has once again brought the issues surrounding domestic abuse in marriage to the fore.

While the allegations remain unproven in the case of Heard and Depp, cases often go unreported when there is a genuine need for some form of legal support to prevent abuse continuing and, in some cases, endangering the lives of those affected.

While it is often easier for celebrities to simply call their lawyer, for people who lack the financial means, seeking legal advice can seem daunting and too costly for those concerned.

Yet there are many cases where those on low incomes can get hold of legal aid to help them with their situation. This means they will miss out on vital legal advice as well as information on where they can go for help.

The legal needs survey of 8,912 people in England and Wales by Ipsos MORI found that 20% of respondents didn’t believe they would get access to legal aid and 47% didn’t know they could be entitled to it. 86% percent of those surveyed were not aware that there are mediation services which can help them.

This shows that a lot of work still needs to be done to educate those affected by domestic abuse.

Domestic violence victims in England and Wales are still being ‘let down’ by the police

Domestic violence and abuse is defined by the government as controlling, coercive, 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.

Theresa May, home secretary, has said that there have been improvements in how the police deal with victims of domestic violence and abuse since a review in 2013 however ‘examples of the same shameful attitude’ persist. The home secretary spoke at the Police Federation’s annual conference and said ‘Victims of abuse are still being let down and reports are not being taken seriously enough’.

The findings of the review in 2013, by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), into the way police handled domestic abuse found victims were not treated with respect and one example was a victim who overhead a responding officer say: “it’s a DV, we’ll be a few minutes and we’ll go on to the next job”.

The Home Secretary said that more victims are coming forward and crimes are being properly recorded which is resulting in more convictions however she commented that ‘we continue to see examples of the same shameful attitude that HMIC uncovered in 2013’. The Home Secretary has therefore now asked the HMIC to investigate this issue.

If you are experiencing abuse following your separation or fear that your former partner is acting in a vengeful manner, you can talk to us in complete confidence about the legal steps you can take to bring your abuser to justice and to legally end your relationship. Our Family Law specialists will handle your case with sensitivity and provide the proper advice and guidance you need. Please contact us for a free 20 minute consultation on 0161 927 3118.

Guide To The ‘Presumption of Death’

A quarter of a million people go missing in the UK every year and this can be extremely distressing for families who are left not only wondering if their relative is dead or alive but later also having to deal with their affairs.

Mention missing persons and one of the first names to come to mind is that of Lord Lucan, who mysteriously disappeared in 1974 never to be seen again. A more recent case involved Manic Street Preachers guitarist Richey Edwards whose body was also never found.

Prior to the Presumption of Death Act 2013, people found it virtually impossible to access to bank accounts, obtain a death certificate or take control of property, assets or titles if someone went missing.

In the case of the Manic Street Preachers guitarist, it took the family 13 years to even register the death. Of course it can’t always be assumed that a person is dead simply because they have gone missing for a few years. There are cases where people come back but since the Presumption of Death act came into force, it at least makes it less stressful for relatives who want to move on in life.

At the time the Act was introduced in 2013, Former Justice Minister, Helen Grant MP said, “The certificate of presumed death that we are introducing is a significant step forward for families who face the terrible situation of losing a loved one and creates a simpler legal framework to ensure bereaved people can better deal with the property and affairs of a loved one who has gone missing and is presumed dead.” Former Justice Minister, Helen Grant MP, March 2013.

If you are affected by any issues relating to the above and require legal assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact our friendly legal team who can advise you.