Worthingtons Solicitors

The Law around Domestic Violence

In 2022, the PSNI reported 33,186 domestic abuse incidents in Northern Ireland, a 6.5% increase from 2021. Many victims of domestic abuse feel fearful of their abuser and may feel trapped and scared to leave.

At Worthingtons, we are here to help and strive to assist and support you throughout this challenging period of your life. Domestic violence and coercive control can affect anyone – regardless of gender, race, age or sexuality but it is never acceptable.

Domestic violence is defined as “any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional)” and can occur between spouses, partners and family members.

In 2021, coercive control became an offence in Northern Ireland under the Domestic Abuse and Civil Proceedings Act (Northern Ireland) 2021. Coercive control is defined as a course of behaviour that is abusive of another person where:

  • the parties are personally connected to each other;
  • a reasonable person would consider the course of behaviour to be likely to cause physical or psychological harm;
  • the perpetrator intends the course of behaviour to cause physical or psychological harm; or
  • is reckless as to whether the course of behaviour causes such harm. 

“Psychological harm” includes fear, alarm and distress and parties that are “personally connected” to each other may be cohabiting, married or family members.

The Family Homes and Domestic Violence (Northern Ireland) Order 1998 provides protection for victims of domestic violence through Non-Molestation Orders and Occupation Orders.

A Non-Molestation Order can help prevent domestic violence and coercive control from continuing. If you are granted a Non-Molestation Order and your ex-spouse/partner/family member tries to contact you, cause you harm or threaten you, they can be arrested by the PSNI.

An “associated person” can apply for a Non-Molestation Order and this is defined as:

  • they are married
  • they have been married
  • they are cohabitants (not married but living together e.g. engaged)
  • they are former co-habitants
  • they live in the same household
  • they have lived in the same household
  • they are relatives (father, mother, stepfather, stepmother, son, daughter, stepson, stepdaughter, grandmother, grandfather, grandson, granddaughter, aunt, uncle, niece or nephew).

An Occupation Order can regulate occupation rights within a home. An applicant must demonstrate that they have a right to occupy the property and that the Applicant resided or intended to reside within the property with the associated person.

Our Family Department are experienced in assisting victims of domestic violence and helping them to access legal remedies to protect and support them from further abuse. If you would like any further information or advice, please do not hesitate to contact our team at [email protected] or call 028 9181 1538.

For expert legal advice

Call 028 9043 4015 or Contact us