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26 Domestic Violence, Abuse and Harassment
4. Taking legal steps
Once you have thought about the practical things you need to do to ensure your short-term safety, you can take some legal steps to make sure the law can protect you. You can get help from the criminal law and the civil law together or separately. You have a number of choices depending on:
Why you may need to take legal steps
In all these situations the law is the same but you get access to it in slightly different ways and will have different choices to make. We describe each of these opposite.
Your partner is violent to you and the police are called to the incident
The police may follow up an emergency visit and investigate what has happened. You may be visited by a community safety officer, who will be able to tell you where you can get help and what the police plan to do about the situation.
Your partner has been violent to you and you call the police after the event
The community safety officer will be able to advise you about your options. If you decide to stay in your home, the officer can tell you how to keep yourself safe and how to call for help if you need it. Some police forces have special emergency buttons and mobile phones they can give you so that you can call for help quickly if you need it.
If you feel that you want to report your partner's behaviour and make what the police call a 'complaint', then the officer will take the details from you.
Someone else tells the police that they think you or your children are being abused
Your partner has been violent to you and you decide to see a solicitor
Resolution is an association of specialist solicitors who take a sensible approach to family law and try to keep things amicable (friendly or polite). It keeps a list of member solicitors and will tell you which ones work in your area. The Law Society also has a Family Law Panel. Solicitors on this panel have to pass an exam and prove they have family law experience. The Law Society will give you the names of solicitors on this panel in your area.
See 'Further help' on for details on how to contact these, and other, organisations. If you need emergency help because, for example, you have had to leave your home, make this clear to the firm of solicitors when you phone for an appointment. In some areas, there is a network of solicitors who deal with domestic abuse. If a firm cannot see you straightaway, they will pass you on to another firm who can.
Your solicitor will be able to explain to you what you can do and should be able to arrange for you to get some advice about help with money and housing, if you have not been able to sort these out for yourself. Your solicitor can advise you about applying for what is called a civil injunction against your partner if this is what you want to do -see 'Court orders you can get to protect you'.
Your solicitor may also advise you to tell the police what has happened.
Your partner is violent to you, you tell the police and you consult a solicitor
This leaflet is published by the Legal Services Commission (LSC). It was written in association with Imogen Clout, a solicitor specialising in family law.
The leaflets are regularly updated but the law may have changed since they were printed so the information in them may be incorrect or out of date.
Leaflet version: January 2016
Last updated on 19 January 2016
CLS Legal Info Leaflets
(Legal Information Leaflets)