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Increased pressure on family life and relationships

Posted on 18th March 2020

We are living in a situation caused by the Coronavirus which for the vast majority of the population is unprecedented. Most of us will never have experienced anything in our lifetimes equivalent to the effect this pandemic will have on our lives. This is a time of massive uncertainty, of global concern, and soaring rates of infection. Many people’s lives at risk. The virus has severely affected the economy, which in turn has affected the income of a lot of people, and in some cases put their livelihoods at risk. At the time of writing, it remains to be seen whether the UK will enter similar lockdown precautions as in Italy, Spain, and France. In those places, people are not allowed to leave their homes unless with a certificate to travel, effectively forcing them to remain in their homes. In the UK we already have thousands self-isolating if they are showing symptoms or their family members are showing symptoms of the virus.

For some people, this stressful time will cause the best in people to shine through. We will see acts of bravery, selflessness, tolerance and support. One hopes that for most people, their priorities will be looking after their loved ones, and keeping fit and healthy to get through the virus and recover from it.

But the enormous pressure on people is also bound to result in huge tensions, especially in enforced and unnatural setting. It remains to be seen whether domestic abuse will increase as a result of the pressures of self-isolation, and of living in close proximity to others during this stressful time.

What if domestic abuse arises during the forced isolation periods spent in the home? What can be done about it?

The first port of call for anyone’s safety is, of course, the police. The police have powers to arrest, and to remove an individual from the home. Anyone concerned for their safety or that of their family members should not hesitate to call 999 or 911. No one should ever have to fear for their safety or that of their children and relatives, and the police are still on hand to help even if people are self-isolating. Domestic abuse is an infringement on some of our most basic human rights: the right to life, to freedom from degrading treatment, to liberty, to the right to a family life and to privacy.

The police may advise that a person suffering from domestic abuse should seek a protective Order from the Civil Courts. Whilst on the criminal side, the police are able to issue Restraining Orders and/or charge an individual and place them on bail, there is also redress to be had through the Civil Courts through family proceedings.

There are a number of Orders that can be applied for and granted in the Family Courts.

These include:

  • Non-Molestation Orders – to include an Order against controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour and all forms of abuse including physical abuse and the threat of physical abuse and harrassment.
  • An Occupation Order which would exclude a party from the family home for a period of time usually six months or a year.

A power of arrest may be attached to an Occupation Order meaning that if it was breached the police can be called and the individual arrested.

In very urgent cases a hearing can take place without notice to the other party. In all cases an application needs to be made supported by a detailed witness statement of the events that have led up to making the application.

Hodge Jones & Allen have expert family law solicitors who are experienced in obtaining such Orders. Our offices remain open throughout this time so that we can be contacted on 0800 437 0322 or via our contact form and we can act immediately.

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