Worthingtons Solicitors advise on legal action which can be taken by those seeking protection against domestic violence.
Under The Family Homes and Domestic Violence (Northern Ireland) Order 1998, victims of domestic violence (irrespective of gender) may be granted protection by the Court, by way of a Non Molestation Order and/or an Occupation Order.
Non Molestation Orders protect specific individuals from the use or threat of violence, intimidation, harassment, pestering or other forms of molestation against them. An application for an Order can only be made if the parties are ‘associated persons’, which is defined as follows:
·they are or have been married to each other or they are or have been civil partners of each other;
·they are cohabitees or former cohabitees;
·they live or have lived in the same household, not having been the other's employee, tenant, lodger or boarder;
·they are relatives;
·they have agreed to marry or enter into a civil partnership (whether or not that agreement has been terminated);
·they are both parents of a child or have parental responsibility for a child;
·they are parties to the same family proceedings;
·one is a parent or a grandparent of a child freed for adoption and the other has become a parent of the child by virtue of an adoption order or has applied for an adoption order, or with whom the child has at any time been placed for adoption.
Occupation Orders declare, confer or regulate occupation rights in respect of a property and in certain circumstances can compel the respondent to vacate the property. The Court will take into consideration all the circumstances of the case before granting any order, including the need to secure the health, safety and well being of the applicant, and any relevant child. In addition, in respect of an Occupation Order, the Court will consider the housing needs and resources of the parties and any relevant child, the financial needs of the parties and the conduct of the parties towards each other.
In the case of an immediate threat or risk of significant harm to the applicant, an application for a Non Molestation Order or Occupation Order may be made ex parte, i.e. without the presence of the respondent. If an ex parte Order is made, the proceedings are then served on the Respondent, at which stage he or she will have an opportunity to defend the application when the matter is next listed before the Court.
Legal Aid is available in respect of Non Molestation Orders, with a contribution depending on the applicant’s financial circumstances, and may be available in respect of Occupation Orders.
Elaine Keenan is a Solicitor in the Family Law department of Worthingtons Solicitors. Please submit any queries in the enquiry form below and a member of our Family Law team will contact you directly.