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26 Domestic Violence, Abuse and Harassment
6. What a solicitor can do for you
Your solicitor should advise you about what you can do, and the best choices for your situation. Not everyone has to get an injunction to be safe from a violent or abusive partner. Sometimes a strongly worded solicitor's letter can stop your partner abusing you again.
Your solicitor should check whether you can get public funding (legal aid) to pay for any court proceedings. Whether you can receive public funding depends on how much you earn and how much money and property you have. It also depends on your case and whether you need a solicitor to apply to the court for you. You may have to pay some of the costs. See the Legal Services Commission leaflet 'A Practical Guide to CLS Funding' for more about this.
Some solicitors may tell you that you cannot have public funding if you can use the police instead, but this is not true. If you want to apply for a court order to protect yourself from domestic abuse, and need public funding to do so, the application form for public funding asks whether you have reported the matter to the police. The form also asks if you have considered whether a warning letter from a solicitor to your partner will stop his or her behaviour. In some cases this may be better than an injunction and, if so, you won't be given public funding.
However, a warning letter alone may not be right for you, for example, because you need to bring civil proceedings to deal with the ownership of your home. In this case, your solicitor needs to explain this on the form. If you don't qualify for public funding you will have to pay your solicitor out of your own money. This can be expensive, especially for an injunction, because an injunction involves court proceedings. If you are in this position, ask your solicitor to give you a realistic estimate of the costs at the start.
How do I get a court order?
Your solicitor (if you have one) will fill in all the forms and arrange for the papers to be 'served on' (personally given to) your partner. You will need to be at the hearing.
If the situation is so serious that you need an order immediately, you can apply to the court on the same day, without telling your partner. This is called applying 'without notice' (some lawyers use the old expression 'ex parte'). If you apply 'without notice', you can generally get an order about the way your partner should behave (a 'non-molestation order'), but not an order about who can live in the home (an 'occupation order'). If you get an order this way, it must then be served on your partner and the judge will fix a day in the near future for a hearing that you must both attend.
What if I can't get public funding and I can't afford a solicitor?
You may be able to apply to the Family Proceedings Court (the family part of the magistrates' court) instead. If you do this, you don't have to pay a fee. However, in many parts of the country the Family Proceedings Court will send you to the county court. Before applying, you can phone your local Family Proceedings Court to ask it whether it does this.
This leaflet is published by the Legal Services Commission (LSC). It was written in association with Imogen Clout, a solicitor specialising in family law.
Leaflet version: July 2019
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