Accredited Solicitors in Domestic Violence - Resolution (the Solicitors Family Law Association) lists solicitors who have undertaken supplementary training to become domestic violence specialists.
Where to find help
Solicitors can help you access the civil law (non-criminal law) in a number of ways.
- Imposing injunctions - an injunction is a 'civil law order' which you can use to help keep you safe. It places legal restrictions on your partner to try to prevent or limit any further violence.
- Getting a divorce or a judicial separation - (a legally recognised separation). A solicitor would deal with the proceedings and any financial settlements you need to make. Divorce proceedings can't be commenced within the first year of marriage but you can instruct a solicitor as soon as you separate so they can serve your divorce petition as soon as the year is over.
- You may be entitled to help with your legal costs through the Legal Help scheme (commonly known as Legal Aid). You have to apply for Legal Help through a solicitor.
Injunctions are not a safe option for everyone as some people are not afraid of being arrested and/or of going to prison. You will be the best judge of whether your partner is likely to obey a court order.
- Occupation Orders (sometimes known as ouster injunctions): These injunctions will exclude your partner from your property.
- Non molestation orders: These injunctions prohibit your partner from assaulting you and/or your children. It can also prevent your partner from coming within a certain area and can stop any specific behaviour that's relevant. It can also stop your partner from getting someone else to do those things for him/her. If your abuser breaches a non-molestation order he/she can be arrested immediately and prosecuted in a criminal court.
- Without notice injunctions: An application for a non-molestation order (and in exceptional cases an occupation order) can be made without notice being given to your abuser. You therefore already have the protection of an order when your partner is served with details of the allegations you have made and when they have to attend court.
There's been an important development with regard to the rights of people who have been married to a British person for less than the required time necessary to gain leave to settle in the UK but who need to leave their spouse due to domestic violence.
There are several agencies who can advise people about immigration and financial issues with relation to domestic violence. Always seek specialist advice on these and other related issues. You can contact the following organisations for advice on domestic violence and immigration:
- Southall Black Sisters
Telephone: 020 8571 9595
- Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants
Telephone: 0207 251 8706
- National Women's Aid Federation
Telephone: 0808 2000 247
- Women Acting in Today's Society (W.A.I.T.S)
Telephone: 0121 440 7000 (West Midlands)
- Forced Marriage Unit
Telephone: 020 7008 0151
- Karma Nirvana (Female and male forced marriage advice)
Telephone: 0800 5999 247
- Black Association of Women Step Out (BAWSO)
Telephone: 01978 355 818
- Polish Domestic Violence
Telephone: 0800 061 4004 or 01270 260106
Proceedings in Civil Courts
The survivor is the 'applicant' or the driver of the case. The applicant only has to convince the civil court on the 'balance of probabilities' - i.e. it is more likely than not that the abuse occurred.
Survivors might be more successful in the civil court and if the defendant is found guilty the applicant will receive a remedy - injunctions/payment of damages etc. In the criminal court the prosecution has to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the offence has occurred and if the defendant is found guilty they will receive a punishment.
How to get help for Civil Actions
The National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV) provides a free, fast emergency injunction service to survivors of domestic violence regardless of their financial circumstances, race, gender or sexual orientation.
Our service allows anyone to apply for an injunction within 24 hours of first contact (in most circumstances). We work in close partnership with the police, local firms of solicitors and other support agencies (Refuge, Women’s Aid etc) to help survivors obtain speedy protection.