Domestic Abuse: Do I have to flee my home, or can the court force my partner to leave instead?
With the outbreak of coronavirus, the government advice is for much of the country to stay at home as much as possible. There are exceptions to this rule, one of which is that victims of domestic abuse can leave the home to seek refuge.
Therefore, if you are in imminent danger, you can leave your home to find safety and you should ring 999.
There are aspects of the Family Law Act 1996 that can offer protection to victims of abuse, who may feel that the occupation of their home is a pressing issue that needs to be addressed in order to keep them safe. The Courts have the power to exclude the abuser from the family home by issuing an Occupation Order.
An Occupation Order can regulate many aspects of living in the family home, for example they can suspend an abusers right to occupy the home, require them to leave, and prevent them from entering a set radius of the family home. It is possible for a power of arrest to be attached to the court order, meaning that the abuser could be arrested for breach of the order.
These powers are available even if the abuser is the legal owner of the property.
However, interfering with a person’s property rights is not something that the court does lightly, and therefore the court will consider a stringent test to decide whether to grant the Order. The court will apply the ‘balance of harm’ test, which is a consideration of whether the abuser being excluded from the home would cause more harm to them and/or any children, in comparison to the harm caused to the victim and/or any children if the abuser remained in occupation. If the balance of harm test is in favour of the applicant, then the court will likely grant the order.
An Occupation Order can offer short-term relief for an applicant, however they will not last indefinitely.
If an applicant needs protection urgently, the Court can list the matter for a hearing remotely, as many of the Court buildings remain closed due to the coronavirus.
If you have any further questions regarding the protection from domestic abuse and the Family Law Act, please do not hesitate to contact our expert Family Lawyers. We have offices based in Wolverhampton and Cradley Heath and serve clients across the West Midlands and Black Country including Stourbridge. If you complete our online enquiry form, a member of our team will contact you for an initial discussion.
Alternatively contact Mark Vandaele, Head of Family Law, on 01902 796930.
We are offering remote appointments due to the Covid19 outbreak.