What is domestic abuse and how can this impact a divorce?

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Domestic abuse is a pattern of behaviour that comes in many forms; including physical, verbal, emotional and economic, in a domestic setting

In this article, we explore different  forms of domestic abuse and what action can be taken to support individuals who have experienced abuse and wish to divorce.

Coercive control

Coercive and controlling behaviour is something that the Family Court now take very seriously. Coercive behaviour means an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation that is used to harm, punish, or frighten the victim.

Controlling behaviour is an action designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence and regulating their everyday behaviour.

This kind of behaviour can start in a very subtle way but can have devastating and long-term impacts. When people who are affected by controlling and coercive behaviour come to divorce, even when removed from the situation, can still feel very concerned about the ramifications of their actions and decisions. This can leave people feeling that it is easier to exit the marriage without pursuing their financial claims leaving them in a financially vulnerable position.

Financial abuse

Financial abuse can include limiting a person’s access to funds as a means of restricting their freedom and, in some cases, to restrict their ability to leave a relationship. In extreme cases, this can leave people without access to funds for basic necessities, even when there is plenty of money in the bank) as a means of punishment or as a way of intimidating their partner into acting in a certain way.

A perpetrator of financial abuse often refuses to put assets in joint names as a means of creating an imbalance of power but may also build up debt in their partner’s name by using credit cards without permission

Often, people who experience financial abuse, have no understanding of where the family’s assets are held; quite often they are kept in the dark as to the family’s financial circumstances as a way of creating fear. When it comes to a divorce, it can leave people who have experienced financial abuse feeling confused and sometimes embarrassed about their lack of knowledge.

Online abuse

Online abuse can include the monitoring of emails and social media. It can include sharing personal or intimate details online (without consent) or the use of tracking devices/spyware.

When it comes to a divorce, the threat of personal information being shared online can be absolutely devastating. The use of tracking devices, spyware and monitoring of emails can leave people feeling too afraid to seek appropriate support and legal advice.

How can we help?

No one should suffer domestic abuse but we understand that taking that first step to getting help is difficult.

Having a solicitor with specialist knowledge who, for example. understands when it is appropriate to contact you (for instance, if there are certain times of day when the perpetrator is absence from the home) is crucial. We will also be able to advise if it is necessary to password protected emails or have correspondence sent to a trusted third party to prevent communication being accessed by your partner.

It is also important to have a robust solicitor who can get to the bottom of the financial assets which are available for division and to help break a cycle of financial abuse. Many people feel that by having a solicitor to act for them in divorce negotiations, this acts as a buffer for the abusive behaviour and takes away some of the perpetrators’ ability to continue the abuse.The Family Court can provide you with protection by way of Non-Molestation and Occupation Orders. Whilst Legal Aid is available for this, more and more people are choosing to privately pay to be able to access justice more quickly.

At Mogers Drewett, we pride ourselves on providing a bespoke service without judgement. This is particularly important for people who have experienced domestic abuse and are likely to have additional anxieties and specific requirements.

If you are experiencing issues associated with domestic abuse, and do not wish to use or are not eligible for Legal Aid, Mogers Drewett are here to help you. Please call Rebecca Silcock on 01225 750 071 or email Rebecca.silcock@mogersdrewett.com

Mogers Drewett

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