Legal rights of those being bullied by their Spouse

30 November 2012

Clare Curran, Matrimonial Partner with Worthingtons Solicitors Belfast advises on the legal rights of the victim of bullying in the home

The current legislation recognises the wide spectrum of behaviours associated with domestic violence and provides protection for certain categories of people, which are defined in the order as ‘associated persons’, against assault, harassment and other types of molestation under two separate measures.

Firstly a ‘Non Molestation Order’ can be granted on behalf of an associated person to prevent a person from ‘molestation.’ The term ‘Molestation’ in practice covers any behaviour which is intended to cause distress or harm. In deciding whether to grant an order, the court must have regard to all the circumstances of the case, including the need to secure the health, safety and wellbeing of the person applying for the order.

Secondly the court can impose under this legislation an ‘Occupation Order’. A court can grant an order to enforce a person’s right to reside in a property, to enter a property, to have peaceful use and enjoyment of a property, or to prohibit or restrict a person’s right to occupy a property. The court can also provide for a person to remove personal effects or restrain from disposing of items in the house. In deciding whether to grant such an order, the court must have regard to the housing needs and resources of the parties and any relevant child, the financial resources of the parties, the likely effect of any order and the conduct of the parties.

Where there is a need for immediate protection, the court may grant either of these orders on an emergency basis, without giving the notice which is otherwise required to be given. Given the repercussions of granting such orders, the courts will only do so where an emergency order is required to prevent significant harm to the applicant or a child. Once an order is granted, it takes effect when it is served on the Respondent.

Any person who contravenes a Non Molestation or Occupation Order is guilty of a criminal offence and may be prosecuted.

Clare Curran is a Partner with Worthingtons Solicitors and is head of the Family Law team. Clare is an accredited member of the Children Order panel and is also trained and qualified to practise collaborative law, a system designed to assist couples in seeking a resolution of their matrimonial issues without resorting to going to court.

If you have queries about any matter raised in this article please contact our Family law department using the form below and they will be happy to offer advice.

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