Domestic abuse solicitors
There are several legal options available to victims of domestic abuse to protect themselves or their children from future risk.
Legal advice on harassment and domestic abuse
Should you find yourself in an abusive relationship our experienced Family Law team is available to provide confidential advice throughout Scotland, with offices in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness, Elginand Shetland
If the police have insufficient evidence to charge an abuser with a criminal offence, this does not prevent victims from seeking protection through the civil courts. With assistance from a Family Law solicitor, the law in Scotland offers a number of remedies as court orders to victims of domestic abuse in order to protect them or their children from the future risk of abuse. In Scotland, it is possible to seek the following protective remedies as court orders:
- Exclusion Orders
- Common Law Interdicts
- Powers of Arrest
- Matrimonial Interdicts
- Domestic Interdicts
- Non Harassment Orders
Our team of domestic abuse solicitors will explore options with you and discuss your situation with complete discretion to help you decide the most suitable solution based on your circumstances.
Options available through court orders
An Exclusion Order, once granted, suspends the occupancy rights of the abuser and thereafter prevents them from returning to live in the family home, despite having occupancy rights to live in the property if they wish to do so. Spouses and Civil Partners automatically have occupancy rights regardless whether they are a title holder or not.
An Exclusion Order, to be effective, must be combined with other orders including a Warrant for Summary Ejection and an Interdict preventing the abuser from entering or remaining in the property.
Common Law Interdicts
An Interdict is an Order whereby the court stipulates that an individual is to refrain from carrying out a specified action or behaviour. For example a victim of domestic abuse could ask the Court to interdict their partner from approaching them or coming within a certain distance of the family home.
Powers of Arrest
A Power of Arrest is an order that is usually sought together with Interdicts and Exclusion Orders. The benefit in obtaining a Power of Arrest is that it will result in the Police being able to automatically arrest an individual if they have breached the terms of the protective remedy which has been granted.
A Matrimonial Interdict is an Interdict that restrains or prohibits any conduct of one spouse towards the other spouse or child of the family. This may include prohibiting a spouse from entering a family home or any other residence of the victim, the victim’s work place or any school the child may attend.
A Domestic Interdict is effectively the same as a Matrimonial Interdict but applies to two people who may be living together as cohabitants and are therefore not married.
Non Harassment Orders
A Non-Harassment Order is designed to protect a victim from a course of conduct which amounts to harassment and causes the victim alarm and distress. Examples of such conduct may include frequent phone calls or repeated text or social media messages. A breach of a Non-Harassment Order is a criminal offence and can result in monetary fine or imprisonment.
Members of our family law team are accredited by the Law Society of Scotland.
Common questions about domestic abuse
The term ‘domestic abuse’ is given to describe a form of inappropriate behaviour between two individuals who are or may have been in a relationship with one another.
There is a misconception that domestic abuse involves physical harm being inflicted from one person to another. Domestic abuse can in fact take several forms including physical, sexual, mental and emotional abuse being inflicted on an individual.
Abuse is legally defined as violence, harassment, threatening conduct and any other conduct giving rise to physical or mental injury, fear, alarm or distress. Conduct can include speech and mere presence in a specific location.
The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 makes it a criminal offence for a person to engage in a course of behaviour which is abusive towards that person’s partner or ex partner.
The law covers not only married couples, civil partners and cohabitants who live together but also people in intimate personal relationship who do not live together. As well as physical abuse, it covers psychological abuse and coercive control.
Domestic abuse is usually a persistent and controlling behaviour causing physical or emotional harm. Often and unfortunately, the longer domestic abuse persists, the more severe the behaviour may become over time. Irrespective of the form in which domestic abuse may present itself, it is entirely unacceptable.
Types of domestic abuse
More specifically, domestic abuse encompasses behaviours that are violent, threatening, intimidating, and manipulative, including but not limited to:
- Coercive control: a pattern of conduct aimed at making the victim dependent on or subservient to the abuser.
- Using children: manipulating or threatening a partner using the children. This could involve threatening to take the children away, using them as messengers, or even directly abusing them to cause emotional harm to the other partner.
- Gaslighting: a manipulation tactic designed to make victims doubt their own reality, isolating them from friends, relatives, or other sources of support.
- Emotional or psychological abuse: the use of tactics that regulate, monitor, and control a victim’s day-to-day activities, eroding their sense of autonomy and self-worth. This can be more subtle than physical abuse but can be equally damaging. Examples include constant criticism, humiliation, degradation, name-calling, guilt trips, and manipulation.
- Intimidation and threats: using words, actions, or gestures to threaten harm (physically, financially, etc.) or to instil fear.
- Economic or financial abuse: controlling a partner’s access to economic resources, making the victim financially dependent. Examples are controlling the finances, withholding money, making the partner account for every penny they spend, or preventing the partner from working.
- Physical abuse: violence or restriction of the victim’s freedom of action or infringing upon their basic human rights. This is perhaps the most recognisable form of domestic abuse. It involves using physical force against another in a way that injures or endangers that person. Examples include hitting, slapping, shoving, choking, and using weapons.
- Sexual abuse: any unwanted sexual activity forced on one partner by the other..
- Psychological abuse: employing tactics that induce fear, humiliation, degradation, or punishment, leaving enduring emotional scars.
- Digital or cyber abuse: with the rise of technology, abuse has also gone digital. This form of abuse involves using technology to bully, harass, stalk, or intimidate a partner. Examples include monitoring what the victim does online, sending threatening emails or texts, non-consensual sharing of explicit images, or using GPS to monitor their location.
- Stalking: unwanted and obsessive attention by an individual. Examples include constantly following a person, showing up uninvited at their home or work, sending unwanted gifts, and other intrusive behaviours.
- Spiritual or religious abuse: using a person’s religious or spiritual beliefs to manipulate, dominate, or control them. Examples include preventing the partner from practicing their religious beliefs, mocking their beliefs, or using religious teachings to justify abusive behaviour.
- Isolation: keeping the victim away from friends, family, or other support networks, thereby making them more dependent on the abuser and easier to control.
It’s essential to recognise that anyone, regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, or race, can be a victim of domestic abuse. Domestic abuse can occur between couples who are married, living together, or dating. If someone believes they or someone they know is experiencing domestic abuse, they should seek help immediately from local support organisations, helplines, or law enforcement.
1. Speak to a Family Law Solicitor
A family lawyer practising or specialising in Family Law will be able to assist you take swift and immediate steps to protect you and your family from further abuse.
2. Consider reporting matters to Police Scotland
The police can take immediate intervention steps to protect you and your family. If you or your children are in immediate danger of harm the police should be contacted. Dial 101 if it is not an emergency and 999 in the event of an emergency.
3. Reach out for help and support
Seek assistance from trusted friends and family members, or consider reaching out to a reputable support organisation. We have listed a few below, for information:
- Scotland’s Domestic Abuse & Forced Marriage Helpline – 24 hour service – 0800 027 1234
- Abused Men in Scotland – 08088 000 024
- Victim Support Scotland – 0800 160 1985
- Rape Crisis Scotland – 0808 8010 302
- Scotland’s Domestic Abuse & Forced Marriage Helpline – 24 hour service – 0800 027 1234
- Scottish Women’s Aid – 0131 226 6606
- Rape Crisis Scotland – 0808 8010 302
- Scottish Women’s Rights Centre – 0808 8010 789
Yes. The definition of domestic abuse is wide and covers a range of different inappropriate behaviours, including verbal abuse. Domestic abuse does not always have to be physical, and often verbal abuse can be just as harmful or traumatising for victims.
Yes. A common misconception is that domestic abuse only refers to physical violence or harm, when in fact domestic abuse can take many forms including emotional and mental abuse.
Examples of emotional or mental abuse include coercive control, criticism and name-calling (including racial abuse), undermining self-confidence, gaslighting, bullying, stalking, threats, humiliation and intimidation. It can involve an individual being cut off from family and friends by their partner or ex-partner to intentionally isolate them from their support network.
In Scotland, once the details of a crime have been passed to the Procurator Fiscal, it is up to them to decide whether it is in the public interest to proceed with the case or not. Individuals can however let the Procurator Fiscal know if they have any concerns.
Unfortunately, another common misconception regarding domestic abuse is that a person experiencing domestic abuse should ‘just leave’ the relationship. We recognise that it is often not as straightforward as this, and that there many barriers that stand in the way of an individual leaving an abusive relationship. These include:
- Fear of further harm
- Shame, embarrassment or denial
- Trauma and low confidence
- Practical reasons – for example, a consequence of financial abuse is that it can be difficult to have financial independence. Another example is where there are children involved, victims can sacrifice themselves for their children and may feel guilty or responsible if they were to disrupt the family unit by leaving the relationship. Abusive partners can often use children as a tactic to guilt trip a person into staying in the relationship.
- Lack of support
- Love for the individual
The nature of domestic abuse is such that an individual may feel that every aspect of their life is being controlled, making it difficult to leave.
Those who are finding it difficult to leave an abusive relationship can seek legal advice from an experienced family law solicitor to ensure swift action is taken to put protective remedies in place. For further information get in touch with one of our family law team members or learn more about domestic abuse by reading one of our articles – What can you do if you are the victim of domestic abuse.
Additionally, an individual who is finding it difficult to leave an abusive relationship can call Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline on 0800 027 1234 who can help with making a safety plan.
Get in touch with our family law team
Harper Macleod is a full-service law firm based at Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness, Elgin and Lerwick. Our Family team deals with a full range of matters, from divorce, separation and child law matters to cohabitation claims, surrogacy and adoption and pre and post nuptial agreements. If you are looking for assistance in navigating family law intricacies, contact our Family law team for advice and representation.
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Call us for free on 0141 227 9545 or complete our online form below for legal advice or to arrange a call back.