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Taking legal action against domestic abuse

If you believe you are in immediate risk, contact the police by dialling 999.

One option is to consider legal action. The thought of taking legal action might be a bit daunting but there is plenty of support out there to help you with legal measures.

You can get advice from a solicitor on your rights, and how to take legal action to prevent domestic abuse. You may be able to claim Legal Aid to pay the costs if you are on a low income or receiving benefits.

What action can you take?

Legal measures to protect you can include:

  • pressing charges - criminal charge of assault and battery will usually require medical evidence and you will need to go to court to testify.
  • non-molestation order - this is a civil court order (that is, an order you take out yourself in a court rather than through the police) aimed at preventing your partner or ex-partner from using or threatening abuse against you or your child, or intimidating, harassing or pestering you. Breaching a non-molestation order is now a criminal offence.
  • occupation order - this regulates who can live in the family home, and can also restrict your abuser from entering the surrounding area. If you do not feel safe continuing to live with your partner, or if you have left home because of abuse but want to return, you may want to apply for an occupation order.
  • residential order - this can be used to keep your children with you.
  • prohibitive steps order - this can be used to prevent children leaving England.

Where to get legal help

You can find a solicitor through the Law Society website. Make sure you approach a solicitor who specialises in domestic abuse or family law.

Rights of Women is a women's voluntary organisation committed to informing, educating and empowering women concerning their legal rights. 

For more information on finding legal support go to our Obtaining legal advice section.

Are you experiencing domestic abuse?

If you are experiencing domestic abuse, it is important to remember that it is not your fault, and that you do not have live through it in silence and on your own. You are entitled to live your life free from fear. Go to our page on Help for people experiencing domestic abuse for details on the many people and organisations whom you can turn to for help and advice.