Dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic has caused seismic changes to all of our lives, including our family life.  During the lockdown we were all forced to isolate in our homes, and for some this enforced time together and the disruption to our normal routines acted like a pressure cooker leading to heated disputes.  It has been reported by Refuge, a domestic abuse charity, that there has been a 25 per cent increase in calls for help during the lockdown. 

It can be a particularly scary time if you live with a violent or abusive partner.  For couples who have separated, we have also seen that difficulties organising child contact arrangements have become a source of abuse.

If you find yourself facing abuse, you may feel that at present you have little choice.  Joanne Aggett family law expert at WBW Solicitors discusses below the options you do have, and she advises ‘We can help during the Covid restrictions and would urge you to contact us for advice.  If you don’t feel able to talk on the phone, then you can e-mail on joanneaggett@wbw.co.uk.

If you are experiencing abuse or violence and worried about your immediate safety your first step should be to contact the Police. 

If you are not able to find a private space to talk to make such a call, then you can use the ‘silent solutions’ system.  This is accessed by dialling 999.  When the operator asks what service you require, enter ‘55’ on your key pad.  Without you having to speak, this is detected by the operator who then contacts your local Police force as an emergency. 

The Police are continuing to deal with all domestic abuse incidents during the pandemic.

You are not a burden to them, and it is important that you know you will still get help even during these difficult times.  The Police can arrest your partner and could place bail conditions against them.  These conditions typically restrict them from being able to see you.

Legal advice on your options

If you are residing with an abusive partner, even if this abusive behaviour has only started during the lockdown, you do not have to endure it.  There is no excuse.

All forms of abuse can significantly impact your wellbeing and those of any children living with you.  Whether that abuse is of a physical nature or psychological, we can provide you with advice and representation in order to ensure you and your children are safe.

This may mean seeking a court order, known as an occupation order, which would enable you to reside in the house without your partner.  Depending on your individual circumstances we may also recommend applying for a non-molestation order.  This is a different type of court order which acts as an injunction prohibiting your partner from behaving in an abusive manner towards you.

Problems with child contact arrangements

It is not uncommon for former abusive partners to still continue to exert control via the child contact arrangements.  We have sadly seen that this type of behaviour has increased during the Covid-19 crisis.  Some abusive former partners have made threats and tried to flout their existing child contact arrangements. 

If you are concerned about your rights and compliance with any current court order or agreement do not hesitate to contact us.  We can advise you if the previous arrangements can continue safely in compliance with government advice, or if an alternative arrangement should now be looked at. 

We can negotiate with your former partner or their representative in order to take the heat away from you dealing directly with them.  If you would rather deal directly, then we can provide you with the correct information and legal position before you enter any discussions. 

If no agreement can be reached, and an application needs to be made to the court to alter an existing order we can also advise and represent you during that process.

Abusive contact from a former partner

Abuse may happen at a distance and, with time on their hands during lockdown, some former partners have turned to the phone, email and social media to continue a campaign of harassment.

In most circumstances, it is possible to obtain a non-molestation order against a former partner.  Keep a written record of any abusive phone calls or exchanges which occur.  If you have received abusive messages it is important to keep a copy of them.  You may find it easier to screen shot these messages and e-mail them to your solicitor.  These can be used as evidence should a court order be required.

Contact us for advice

Your mental health during this pandemic is every bit as important as your physical health.  If you are encountering more domestic disputes which you feel are getting out of hand, do not hesitate to contact us for some preliminary advice.

For further information, please contact Joanne Aggett in the family law team on 01626 202335 or email joanneaggett@wbw.co.uk