15 FAQs about restraining orders and injunctions.
- What is the difference between a restraining order and an injunction?
- Can I get a restraining order against my abuser even if they were not found guilty?
- Can I get an injunction or restraining order even if there hasn't been any actual domestic violence?
- What is a domestic violence protection notice?
- What is a domestic violence protection order?
- Can I get an injunction to stop my partner threatening me or my children?
- How can I protect myself against abuse when we share a home?
- My abusive partner is threatening to take our child away if I complain - what can I do?
- How long does an injunction to protect me against domestic abuse last?
- How long does it take to get an injunction against an abuser?
- What sort of evidence do I need to get an injunction after domestic abuse?
- How much does it cost to get an occupation order or a non-molestation order?
- How can I protect myself against domestic violence if I cannot afford a solicitor?
- What good is a restraining order or injunction when I know my abuser will just ignore it?
- What happens if my abuser breaches an injunction or restraining order?
1. What is the difference between a restraining order and an injunction?
Restraining orders and injunctions are both types of court order that tell someone not to do something. For example, if you are a victim of domestic violence you might want a court order to help protect you from your abuser.
The main difference is that a restraining order is issued at the end of a criminal case, but you can ask the court for an injunction even if someone has not been charged with a criminal offence.
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2. Can I get a restraining order against my abuser even if they were not found guilty?
A court can issue a restraining order at the end of a case even if the defendant was not convicted. The court can do this if the evidence shows that a restraining order is necessary to protect someone from harassment.
Even if the court does not issue a restraining order (or if there has not been a criminal trial at all) you can make an application for a protective injunction.
3. Can I get an injunction or restraining order even if there hasn't been any actual domestic violence?
Protective orders can be used to deal with any form of domestic violence or abuse. As well as physical or sexual abuse, this can include psychological or emotional abuse, and a range of different controlling or coercive behaviours.
As well as protection against violence, threats or harassment, injunctions can be used to give you the right to stay in the family home (for example, if your partner is not letting you in) and to order your partner (or other family members) to keep away.
4. What is a domestic violence protection notice?
A domestic violence protection notice can be issued by a police officer if you have been a victim of domestic violence and the officer thinks it is necessary to protect you from further violence or threats.
A domestic violence protection notice acts like a temporary restraining order. The notice can prohibit your abuser from entering or being near your home (or other places such as where you work), or from forcing you to leave the home you share, or from contacting you or your children.
A domestic violence protection notice is only temporary. The abuser will be summoned to court within 48 hours (except at weekends) where a domestic violence protection order can be issued.
5. What is a domestic violence protection order?
A domestic violence protection order is like a temporary restraining order that helps protect victims of domestic violence from further violence or threats. The order can keep your abuser away from you and your children, and stop them forcing you to leave the home you share.
Unlike an injunction - which you apply for - a domestic violence protection order is applied for by the police. It lets them help you when there isn't (yet) enough evidence to charge your abuser with a crime.
A domestic violence protection order is only temporary, lasting between 14 and 28 days. But this gives you time to sort out what other steps you want to take, such as finding somewhere else to live or applying for a longer term injunction.
In the meantime, if your abuser breaches the terms of a domestic violence protection order, they can be arrested.
6. Can I get an injunction to stop my partner threatening me or my children?
You can apply to the court for a non-molestation order. This can require your partner not to use violence, threaten or intimidate you (or your children).
An injunction cannot guarantee that the abusive behaviour will stop, but an abuser who breaches the terms of a non-molestation order can be arrested.
7. How can I protect myself against abuse when we share a home?
You can apply for an occupation order. This prohibits your abuser from coming near or entering your home. You might also apply for a non-molestation order at the same time, prohibiting your abuser from violence or threats towards you.
You can apply for an occupation order if you are a tenant or owner of the home (either on your own or as a joint owner or tenant). You can also apply for an occupation order if you are or were married to, in a civil partnership with or cohabiting with the owner or tenant. So you can apply for an occupation order even if your abuser is the only tenant or owner of the home.
The court will need to weigh up the effects of the occupation order on you, your partner and any children before deciding whether to grant the order.
8. My abusive partner is threatening to take our child away if I complain - what can I do?
As long as you have parental responsibility for the child, you can apply for a prohibited steps order. The prohibited steps order can prohibit your partner from taking the child away, though it may not prevent all contact between your partner and your child.
You have parental responsibility automatically if you are the child's natural mother. A father who was married to the mother when the child was born, or is named as the father on a birth certificate (after December 2003) also has parental responsibility. Step-parents and unmarried fathers only have parental responsibility if there has been a parental responsibility agreement or order.
9. How long does an injunction to protect me against domestic abuse last?
Injunctions are typically granted for a set period - often six to 12 months - though they can be indefinite. Injunctions can also be renewed.
10. How long does it take to get an injunction against an abuser?
It typically takes a week or two to get an injunction, but you can apply for an injunction to be granted on the same day if you are at immediate risk of significant harm.
If the court grants an injunction without notice, you will have to go back to court later for a hearing once the abuser has been given notice. He or she will then have the opportunity to present their side of the story if they wish.
11. What sort of evidence do I need to get an injunction after domestic abuse?
You should try to put together as much evidence as possible about the abuse you have suffered. This can include physical violence, threats, emotional abuse and so on.
Try to keep a record yourself of specific incidents - what happened, when. It will help if you also have independent evidence, for example from your doctor, the police and other people who have witnessed incidents of abuse.
12. How much does it cost to get an occupation order or a non-molestation order?
Solicitors' fees vary depending on how much work is involved, but costs of around £2,000 are fairly typical.
13. How can I protect myself against domestic violence if I cannot afford a solicitor?
The first step you should take, whether or not you can afford a solicitor, is to call the police - either on 999 if you are in immediate danger or on 101. The police take domestic violence seriously, and can arrest an abuser, issue a domestic violence protection notice, put you in touch with other sources of help and so on.
If you are on a low income, you may also qualify for legal aid. This can help pay for a solicitor to advise you, apply for an injunction and so on. The National Centre for Domestic Violence (0800 970 2070) can offer free help getting an emergency injunction.
You should also think about the practical steps you can take - for example, whether there are friends you could stay with or whether to seek help from a refuge. There is a 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline (0808 2000247) and many local organisations offer support and advice.
14. What good is a restraining order or injunction when I know my abuser will just ignore it?
Some abusers will respond positively to a protective order, recognising that it is time to change their behaviour and that they could face more serious consequences if they continue as they are.
Unfortunately, others will ignore it - or even consider it as a challenge to their power over their victim. In these circumstances, you need to think about other steps you can take to protect yourself (and any children). For example, you might need to consider moving to a refuge if that is the only way you can be safe.
Over time, continued breaches of protective injunctions will lead to an abuser being imprisoned, but it can be a difficult and frightening process for you. As well as involving the police and taking legal action, you will want to get as much support as possible from family, friends and support organisations.
15. What happens if my abuser breaches an injunction or restraining order?
In most cases, they can be arrested.
What happens after that will depend on the circumstances. The court will consider whether the breach was a one-off or part of a planned pattern of continued abuse, the effect it has had on you and so on. The abuser can be fined, given community service or a suspended sentence, or given a prison sentence of up to five years. If the abuser is shown to have been violent, you can normally expect them to be imprisoned.