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Domestic abuse is violence or another form of abuse committed by one person against another. It can affect anyone, regardless of your gender, age, social background, religion, sexuality, ethnicity or where you live. 

Despite cuts to legal aid, it’s still available for victims of domestic abuse. If you’re going through a divorce or separating from an abusive partner, you may be entitled to legal aid which can help meet the costs of legal advice and representation in court. You’ll have your own questions about what you can do, but here’s some of the ones we think are useful:

The government’s definition of domestic abuse is any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or who have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. Domestic abuse can be psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional.

There are laws to protect you from domestic abuse. In certain circumstances you can apply for a non-molestation order and an occupation order. A non-molestation order usually stops your partner or family member from using or threatening violence towards you, intimidating and harassing you, communicating with you and encouraging another person to do the same. 

An occupation order regulates the family home and can be used to prevent your ex-partner from approaching or returning to a specified property and an identified distance around the property. It might be possible to apply for a non-molestation order and an occupation order on an urgent basis and without notice being given to the other person. If you’re in immediate danger you must call 999.

Yes you can. The government's domestic violence disclosure scheme, implemented in March 2014, allows you to ask the police to check if your partner has a violent past if you’re concerned they pose a risk to you. If police records show that you could be at risk, they’ll consider disclosing the information, but only if it’s legal and is considered proportionate and necessary to do so.

A MARAC is a multi-agency risk assessment conference. If you’ve been identified as being at high risk of domestic abuse by someone working with you, for example a health visitor, a MARAC referral will be made and an independent domestic violence advocate (IDVA) will contact you to provide you with some more information. 

You’re not required to be present at an MARAC meeting, it’s attended by a number of agencies, usually the police, children’s services and health and housing. At the meeting representatives from each agency suggest actions their agencies can undertake to protect you.

Gathering the courage and strength to change your situation should never be underestimated, but once you’ve made the decision to leave an abusive partner, it can be life changing. Of course, there’s likely to be lots of questions; where am I going to live, will I have to take the kids out of the area, will they have to be taken out of school, what will I do for money, how will I cope etc.

Aside from the legal aspects of your circumstances, we work with organisations that can support you in other areas of your life. We can refer you to agencies that provide somewhere for you to live while you get back on your feet and, if needed, we can put you in touch with organisations that offer counselling for you and the children. We also work with the Department for Work and Pensions which can advise you of any benefits you may be entitled to as well as social services to help support your transition to a new life.

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