Domestic abuse and divorce - the hidden issue in family law cases?

Domestic Abuse – It can happen to anyone/how can I leave my abusive partner?

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We all know the term “domestic abuse”. However, do we know what it means or who it is happening to? Domestic abuse is, unfortunately, happening all around us and yet very few of us will know it happens to our friends or family as it usually occurs behind closed doors.

The statistics on domestic abuse are shocking. According to 1 in 4 women in England and Wales experience domestic violence in their lifetimes. 1 in 6 men experience it in their lifetime. Every minute police in the UK receive a domestic abuse call. On average, a woman is assaulted 35 times before her first call to the police. 20% of children in the UK have been exposed to domestic abuse. These are horrifying figures.

The Domestic Abuse Act received Royal Assent on 29 April 2021 and provides a legal definition of domestic abuse. The definition recognises that abuse can be:

  • Physical or sexual
  • Violent or threatening behaviour
  • Controlling or coercive behaviour
  • Economic abuse
  • Psychological, emotional or other abuse

For the definition to apply both parties must be aged 16 or over and personally connected which broadly means they are in or have been in a relationship with the other person.

The term domestic abuse covers a wide range of behaviors and does not always mean that there is physical abuse. A large proportion of the cases I deal with have an element of domestic abuse within them. My clients are sometimes reluctant to discuss the abuse or address it. They simply want to leave the relationship and get out of the situation as quickly and easily as possible.

Domestic abuse is not confined to any one type of person, it can happen to anyone regardless of age, gender, religion, race. The victims have often been isolated by the abuser with their links and access to friends and family limited. They describe living in the home with the abuser as like walking on eggshells when they never know what behaviour will set the abuser off. Others will see warning signs that there is about to be a problem.

The person suffering from domestic abuse can feel embarrassed – how can an educated woman have found herself in this situation? How can a man be under the control of a woman who is so much physically smaller than him? These are common feelings. It is also usual to feel that no one will believe that this apparently charming person could behave in this way behind closed doors.

The idea of going to court to get an injunction to stop the abuser contacting the victim or forcing them to leave the house is a terrifying thought for most people experiencing domestic abuse. I can help a person experiencing domestic abuse to obtain these injunctions but it is not the right resolution for everyone. It is too much for them to do, even taking the step of speaking to a solicitor about the situation can be as much as they can manage at the time.

Often my clients need to build the confidence in themselves again before they can take the next step through me and leave their abusive pattern. What I can do at a first meeting is talk through the options, let the person know there are choices and perhaps most importantly reassure them that all those threats such as :

  • If you leave, you lose your rights to the house
  • If you make me leave I won’t pay the mortgage and you won’t get to stay in the home
  • You can go, but you can’t take the kids with you
  • No one will believe you
  • It’s your fault this is happening

Are threats that are regularly made and that our legal system is equipped to deal with. There are answers and solutions that protect the victim. There are ways to ensure the abuser continues to pay the mortgage, leaving the home does not mean losing rights of ownership, the children’s needs will be looked at properly and not be determined by who remains living in the house.

There is good support out there for those experiencing domestic abuse. It is well worth anyone who is thinking of leaving their abusive partner accessing support, to give them the strength to then follow on the advice we give them. Local services include :

If you are in an abusive relationship and want to know more about what could happen if you leave, and what you can do to protect yourself, then contact us for a confidential, non-judgemental chat.

52 responses on “Domestic Abuse – It can happen to anyone/how can I leave my abusive partner?

  1. I wish to help a friend get a divorce. She has already got a non-molestation order and non-occupancy. It is now necessary to get a divorce for the children’s sake and for her own sake. Her husband has managed to get legal aid by lying about his income. He claims to be unemployed but is in fact working on a cash in hand basis. My friend has failed to get legal aid. He income is ?1,700 per month with which she provides for her two children getting nothing from her husband. She cannot afford a solicitor. I can assist as a McKenzie friend but do not know how to go about starting the procedure. Can you help?

    1. Thank you for your comment. While we can help your friend, we do charge for our services. I can offer a fixed fee first meeting to your friend which would hopefully help her with moving matters forward and provide her with help with what she needs to do next. There are many websites available with help as to how you could be a McKenzie Friend or you may find your local Citizens Advice Bureau helpful. Your friend is welcome to contact me directly if she would like to consider a meeting.

  2. In 2011 my stbx denied me access to all marital funds I had to scrape through and bring up 2 children on my own up until now. He has continued to live in the home with us to this day. I started divorce proceedings in 2016 when I found out he had been seeing a solicitor for 5 years behind my back. Over those years he has hidden assets, money, gambled to the extreme, picked up with another woman, denied me any money, said he is going to destroy me and I will never find one penny. The company he worked for has been bought out and his shares recognised. He has not disclosed much on form E and continues to ignore a penal notice. Yesterday I found out he has applied for a remortgage on our home without my permission and I?m told as joint mortgagee there?s nothing I can do. He has lied, cheated, pre meditated this divorce and now with all his years of bullying and threats and controlling all the finances, seems set to walk off with the lot. What do I do??

    1. Thank you for your comment. I’m sorry to hear of the situation you find yourself in. We cannot give advice on this forum but there are certainly steps you can take to protect yourself and try to control or limit your husband’s behaviour. If you would like to contact me directly then I can set out how we help new clients and how I can provide advice specifically for your situation.

  3. Hi
    My husband is the same. I?m on benefits re mental ill health. Can you provide free legal aid at all?
    Kind regards,

  4. My Husband has abused me verbally and now physically. We have been together for 22 years the cracks started about 2 years ago with him loosing his temper and throwing things. Last September I plucked up the courage to leave him. I had lots of nasty messages or him posting things on social media. After about six weeks we managed to sort things out and he promised me that nothing like that would happen again. He even said that he would attend anger management which he did. Then this week it started all over again with his verbal abuse and then he grabbed my jaw . I?m absolutely heartbroken that he could do this to me his own wife. He has said that he is going to kick me out of our home and make me homeless. I know he can?t do that and I?v refused to leave the property and that he would have to give me money so I could rent another property. His farther gave us the money appointmently 10 years ago to pay off our mortgage. We now have a charge on the house that if one of us where to died or in the event of separation or divorce that his dad would get his money back. The rest of the money due to the sale would then be split between myself and my husband. I told ld him that he couldn?t kick me out and if he wanted me out then he needed to give me money so I could find another property to rent. My husband told me that he was so so sorry and that he?s in a bad place at the moment. Sadly on Christmas Day his mum passed away which I know the family has been through a very tough time. But that still doesn?t give in the right to abuse me in any way. I gave up my job to care for her so at the moment I?m without a job and having to depend on my husband. My husband is now threatening to keep my little dog who means the world to me so I feel that my hands are tied what do I do?

    1. Thank you for your comment. I?m very sorry to hear of the situation you are in. Have you accessed any support from local domestic abuse support groups or from your GP? I would recommend that you do access some support locally to you. There are options and ways we can help you with separating from your husband and managing this to try and keep you safe. I would need more information about your situation to be able to advise you as to likely outcomes in relation to the finances if you were to separate. You will have seen that we cannot give advice on this forum but you are welcome to contact me directly if you would like to know more about how I can help.

  5. My wife was violent towards over our 16 year marriage and she has accepted this on the grounds for divorce. We have received our decree absolute but have not settled finances. Will I have to pay her maintenance considering her behaviour as it seems wrong to make a victim responsible for the financial future of their perpetrator. She has been arrested twice and I have notified the police on 4 occasions of the abuse but never pressed charges.

    1. Thank you for your comment. You will have seen that we cannot give advice on this forum. When the division of the finances is looked at then this is usually very much based upon the facts and figures as to whether you have to pay maintenance. In some situations behaviour may impact upon the division of the finances but this is unusual and can be a draining case to run in terms of both costs and emotions. If you would like to contact me directly I can explain more about how I could help.

  6. Hi I left my spouse last month but she gone to the court and she got a domestic violence order against me but the judge said no proves and they just waiting for me to go and clear my name and she won’t lett me see my child , she said with that way u can’t apply for parent visa what I can do plz I’m so confused and worried I can’t see my child again

    1. Thank you for your comment. We cannot give advice on this forum. However, it is certainly worth you obtaining advice about your situation as it is your child?s right to have a relationship with both parents in a way that is appropriate and safe for them.

  7. If controlling and coercive behaviour is cited in a divorce does it have to have involved the police and have prior history in advance or can it be cited for the first time in the divorce proceedings?

    1. Thank you for your comment. It is possible to refer to events in a divorce petition which have not been reported to the police or elsewhere. The reasons for the divorce are usually based upon what you feel has caused the breakdown of the marriage and may not have been discussed with anyone else.

  8. Hi,
    I would really appreciate your thoughts.
    Three years ago,I divorced my wife after 33 years of marriage,retired from Teaching and topped up her Pension as well as topping up National Insurance contributions, at the time from our joint bank account. She still lives in our jointly owned house, where she entertains our 3 children, all left home, for special occasions.
    We married in 1980, and there were some issues many years later.
    What pension rights do I have in claiming against her pension as well as her state pension and should I be entitled to any compensation in respect of her on going domestic cruel violence towards me?.
    Thank you

    1. Thank you for your comment. For confidentiality reasons we have not included all your comments. If you have not yet divorced and dealt with financial matters then your all financial claims will be dealt with when you are ready to divorce/deal with the separation more formally. Pension claims would then be looked at and the longer the marriage, the more likely it is that the assets, including pensions, will be equalised. Making a claim for compensation within the divorce proceedings for years of domestic abuse is very difficult and unusual. However, one of the factors which can be considered when assets are divided is the conduct of the parties. You are welcome to contact me directly if you want to know more about the options for dealing with the finances.

  9. Hi,

    I am currently filing for divorce on the grounds of domestic abuse. Would this affect the career of my soon to be ex husband?
    His family are not pleased with my decision to file on those grounds despite his actions.

    1. Hi, thank you for your comment. A divorce petition is a private document and should not be shown to anyone other than legal advisers, the judge and the parties. If it remains private it should not affect anyone’s career. I hope that this assists.

  10. Hi,
    I have a similar case. I have been in an abusive relationship for a long time, married for 10 years and have a 2 year old. Starting from 2017 the abusive behaviour started to get physical and now its worse. I work full time and pay rent, all bills, child’s nursery fee etc, the whole family is run by me. My husband is self-employed with a software business but has no earnings from it. He uses very abusive words, yells when getting angry and never supports the family. Recently he started hitting me very hard and I got a very bad bruise in my hand. I want to get out of this relationship but he keeps threatening me that his behaviour will get worse from now on. He also forces me to start a company, and says if not he will continue hitting me everyday.
    I’m worried for my child who has witnessed this a number of times. My child is totally dependent on me financially and emotionally. I’m afraid if anything happens to me, it will be worse for my child. I want my husband to be out of our life. I’m thinking of getting an occupation order and a divorce. I’m sure he will not support the divorce, but I need separation. Is there anything else I can do? Do I need more evidence to get an occupation order and since my husband is financially dependent on me will the court consider the order? I’m in a position where I do not know how to proceed but I know I should start seeking help. I have remained silent for many years. Any advice would be very much appreciated.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I’m sorry to hear of the situation you find yourself in. Firstly, I would recommend that you contact a local domestic abuse charity in your area. You will probably find that they have lots of practical ways to provide you with support as sometimes you may need to take steps to protect yourself and your son before you take legal action. From what you have said, it seems that you have sufficient grounds for an occupation order if that is what you need but speaking to a solicitor in detail will help confirm whether such an injunction is possible and the best option. You are welcome to contact me directly if you would like to know how I can help.

  11. My husband falls into the mental abuse category mostly. He’s isolated me from friends and family. I’m not allowed to go out with my friends. He picks my clothes when we shop if he doesn’t like it I can’t have it. He rules the roost completely. If things are untidy (which they’re no it’s just his perception) he shouts and raves. If any of the kids rooms are untidy he shouts at them (even if they’re not i would call untidy for a child). None of my children are his. My eldest son is now 22 and on more than one occasion he has physically attacked him. He’s called my children names (the two youngest are both autistic) he makes our lives unbearable. Everything he has has to be the best and all he cares about is how people perceive him or us as a family. We own a house but the deposit was mine which I have proof of. My questions are 1. How do I stand over the house (I don’t work but its vital we stay in the house because the two that are autistic wouldn’t cope with a move)? 2. Can I get legal aid under the domestic abuse umbrella?

    1. Thank you for your comment. I am sorry to hear of the situation you are in. You will have seen that we cannot give advice on this forum. You can check your eligibility for legal aid here: Unfortunately, as a firm we do not offer legal aid. It may help you to know that as a general principle priority is given to the housing needs of the children and the possibility of you remaining in the house would be explored.

  12. Hi … My sister in law has been living in UK for the past 4 years .. her husband works there .. they are now married for 13 years and have a child .. his attitude and behaviour has changed since she caught his extra marital affair with her best friend in 2016.. since the last 5 months he has been emotionally harassing her with talks of separation; talks of her having to leave the country with her son and go back home to india and many more .. she has retained most of the whatsapp messages .. she has now left the UK and is with us here in dubai .. although she has a valid return ticket to go back to UK , she does not plan to go back as she feels threatened living with him any longer .. kindly advise what should we do to be legally correct .. Thanks Dr Dennis

    1. Thank you for your comment. You will have seen that we can?t give advise on this forum. There are possible cross jurisdiction issues with what is happening and I would urge your sister in law to take urgent advice both in England and in Dubai if that is where she hopes to live. There could be some quite serious consequences if she doesn?t plan to return with their child and if the father decides to take legal action for the return of the child. She is welcome to contact me directly so I can explain more as to how I or one of my colleagues can help.

  13. Hi, I need to help my sister. She has been married for nearly 30 years to her husband and throughout there marriage it has been turbulent due to his debts and being bankrupted due to very poor decisions and he has been verbally abusive towards her, myself and my parents in front of the children. Last year he decided to sell the family home which she owns (her name alley in the deeds) and forced her to sign papers as she will end up with nothing from the sale of the house (he even got two of the daughters involved and emotionally blackmail her into signing) she is now trying to get a divorce in order and a financial order with the courts however he has sent her a letter from his solicitors saying that he wants all the procedures from the sale of the house and he will be taken her to court. She has already given him ?50.000 to get him off her back as he was harassing her, verbally and mentally abusing her, he stopped her in the street and threatened her life, myself and my parents life, which we contacted the police about. He pays no maintenance to the third child that lives with her, doesn?t want to work, has brainwashed the two girls that are with him and have also sent her blackmailing threats. Is there anymore we can do? Does she have to give him half of the sale of her house? please help or advise. Thank you

    1. Thank you for your comment. It must be a difficult situation for you to watch and see your sister go through. You will have seen that we are unable to give advice on this forum. I can, however, say that it would be unusual to agree to the release of sums of money particularly from the sale of the house until there is an overall agreement as to the division of the financial assets. If your sister has not taken advice she should do so as she may be quite surprised as to the options available to her. She is welcome to contact me directly to find out how I can help.

  14. My brother lives with his abusive wife and their 9 year old son . She has mentally abused him for 9 years , she now abuses both him and my nephew , pretending to outsiders she?s a great mum and just strict . She swears at them , calls them names , my brother does everything for them , cleans , washes clothes , works to pay the mortgage and bills . They walk on eggshells all the time , he never knows how she is going to be , she?s stays in her bedroom for 2/3 days sometimes but pretends to others she?s doing everything for them . I am afraid she will tell the police my brother has been violent towards her to get him out , she has tried this before . God knows what else she does to them behind closed doors , my brother pretends things are ok but seems to think he has to continue this relationship to keep his son , please help , she is getting worse by the day , I am afraid for them both .
    Should he go to the police if I can convince him to?

    1. Thank you for your comment. What a difficult situation for you to have to watch. We can’t give advice on this forum but certainly there are options for your brother if and when he is ready to take steps. The options can include talking to the police, they have specialist domestic abuse units. He could contact a local charity/support group which provide practical help for victims of domestic abuse or he could seek legal advice as to his options and the likely outcomes if he were to separate from his wife. He is welcome to contact me directly if he would like advice when he is ready.

  15. Hi I?ve been married for 9 & half years.. My husband has been supportive through out.. However he has his moments .. Very moody, has never made an effort to get on with my children.. they are 28, 24 & 21. So many times I have had disagreements with him about how he goes on . He picks at everything.. I found out he had said something very personal about my daughter who is 24. He denied it, however I couldn?t get it out my head.. Confronted him many times & he kept saying wasn?t true.. However I had my doubts & they would not leave me.. Last we end he went missing .. rang & threatened to kill himself.. He has said this before & also in a letter to me when I first met him.. I?ve also found out he did this to his ex wife.. & also assaulted her in front of their daughter 3 months before I met him. Now this has really changed the way I feel.. I told him to go & he has. Now we live in social housing, it?s only my name on the tenancy.. He asked for half the house, we don?t have any assets.. only have joint life insurance policy.. Where do I stand with this ?

    1. Thank you for your comment. What a difficult situation for you. Unfortunately, we cannot give advice on this forum. There are lots of different factors which affect how the assets are divided or who retains the tenancy and you would need to take legal advice to understand what could happen in your circumstances. You are welcome to contact me directly and I can then explain how I can help you.

  16. Hi my ex partner is filing a divorce under demestic violence and things she said ain’t true. Will this devorce affect my career in way if sign it so its done out the way and will it affect me seeing my children thanks

    1. Thank you for your comment. You will have seen that we cannot give advice on this forum. I can confirm that family proceedings are usually private and a record of them is not sent to your employers. Allegations of domestic abuse can impact upon arrangements for spending time with the children but it depends upon the nature of the allegation and whether it is upheld by the court. You should take advice on your situation.

  17. Hi, so I’m just doing research for my second year family law module and, I came accross your article/blog post. It’s surprisingly difficult, more than I expected, to write about abuse while having endured two years of it in a second marriage and a year in a first. But I wanted to leave a comment thanking you sincerely, for fighting for people like me and for making us your priority when the people we thought loved us the most betrayed us so feircely. Thank you. L x

    1. Thank you for such a thoughtful comment. For those working in this area and having seen the impact of domestic abuse I think it motivates us to help as much as we can.

  18. Hi, can someone get a quick divorce because of domestic violence even if one of them doesn?t agree to it?

    1. Thank you for your comment. The divorce process is a similar length whatever ground you use for the divorce. It will depend upon the other person’s response to the papers as to how easy it would be to progress the divorce. It would be worth investing in some advice as to how you can move a divorce forward if the other person is not agreeing. This is a link to our factsheet about the divorce process which may be of help :

  19. My ex-husband and I divorced in 2012, after 23 yrs of marriage. He was controlling and a bully, but divorced me on the grounds of adultery, at the time I just wanted it to be done with and would have agreed to anything just to get away from him. Is there anything that can be done to overturn this to an issue of Domestic Violence?

    1. Thank you for your comment. If the divorce has gone through then you cannot now change those documents. Do remember, they are private documents and are not ones which should be seen by anyone else. Have you dealt with financial matters? If not, after a 23 year marriage you should consider doing so. You are welcome to contact me directly to find out how I could help if the division of the financial assets has not been resolved.

  20. Hi, Can I request my step -son to move out of house which jointly owned by me and my husband? My husband is on Non-mole station order at the moment because of DV towards both me and my child. His son, aged 20, is still staying with me in the house , I have to pay for all the bill of the house. My step son keeps making trouble such as turning off gas/boiler, empties my shampoo and shower gel. He has bad relationship with my son aged 14, he thinks he has right to stay in the house as his father owned half of the property. what is the appropriate procedure to get my step son move out of the house?

    1. Thank you for your comment, Brenda. We cannot give advice on this forum. There could be options to require your step son to leave the property but you would need to provide more details to be properly advised as to your options. You are welcome to contact me directly if you would like to know how I could help.

  21. Hi. I’been married for several years and we have a 2 year old daughter. Since right before Christmas my husband became violent and strangled me. At that time my mother in law was here and stopped him. Since then, another episode happened but did not touch me or my daughter, however ripped things and banged his head on a door really hard while my daughter was crying (threatened as well to kill himself). His mom, since the start of the lockdown has remained in our household and has caused a lot of arguments and has abused me verbally. My husband has not reacted to this, better yet said he agreed with her. Are there any legal grounds that I can use to take her out of my house?

    1. Thank you for your comments. Yes, there are possible ways to require your mother in law to leave your property. You would need to take advice on the options available and are welcome to contact me further so I can explain how I could help.

  22. Forgot to mention she was charged in December with a Section 38 Breach of Peace with Domestic Abuse Act aggrivator and was also charged with 2 charges of theft when under caution during a recorded interview. The 3 assaults are still under investigation a d are still live.

  23. Hi;
    I was in an abusive marriage for 4 years and had recently the courage to leave. I have two young kids. Their father was violent towards me during pregnancy and in front of them. They are under child protection plan. Dad has bail condition not to contact me and come to the house. But mostly with the advise of the social worker he sees the kids a few times a week for a few hours. Handover is done by his family. Does this effect child arrangement in the future? Should I stop contact compleetely? Thanks

    1. Thank you for your comment. We cannot provide advice on this forum. I can, however, say that you should very much be guided by the social worker as they are experienced in dealing with such situations. If you are still unsure then you should take advice and talk to a solicitor in detail about your situation.

  24. I am in a horrible relationship with my husband, he won?t leave where do I stand.? I have a 9 year old son.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I’m sorry to hear of the situation you are in. It would be worth you contacting a local domestic abuse support group to set out your situation as they will have practical ways to support you at this difficult time. You should also take legal advice on the options to require your husband to leave the property. You are welcome to contact me directly so that I can explain how I can help.

  25. Where do I really stand with a financial settlement?
    I got my absolute through in Oct 2020, however the financial settlement is dragging. All money and properties have been my investment, my hard earned money. i worked full time the whole of my career, saving for my maternity year, but because we were married he is entitled to be provided a % share based on his needs. My needs are also considered. I have our child 6 days and 7 nights a week. He pays me £120 a month for maintenance. I had an occupation order granted fora year and he never returned to the ‘family home’ after being sectioned under the MHA section 2 . We both moved on with new relationships, however his has just split after 18 months and she the ex girlfriend has found my number and now divulged more disturbing repetitive psychopathic, narcissistic, personality disorder behaviour and wanted to check with me if she was going mad or if he is indeed that nasty. He has made up a load of stories about me, but also told her that he had affairs whilst with me, has had another child etc
    However why given his conduct and poor contribution does the law not consider any of this. Why if I am the victim and have suffered and provided for this horrible man out of love and commitment does he get to walk away with potentially 50% – he has declined 40%. I wanted to settle out of court but both parties solicitors are overlooking the conduct in all of this, talking purely of needs and his needs are greater because he is useless, can’t tie down a job, can’t get a mortgage – none of this is my doing, I provided for him because I was nice and also gullible. The law is so out of date but my son and I are being overlooked for the greed and lies of my lazy ex husbands needs. I don’t feel I am in any way protected after having already suffered enough and lost enough to this man

    1. Thank you for your comment. We cannot give advice on this forum. Our law will only take conduct into account and having an affect on the division of the finances in very limited circumstances. Needs will also often override the conduct. However, every situation is different and if you have questions then you should ensure that you discuss fully with your current solicitor.

  26. I’ve been separated from my ex since 2006. I didn’t realise at the time but he emotionally and mentally abused me the entire marriage (you never see it while it’s happening do you) … I now suffer from severe anxiety and depression. I’m actually really scared of him! Not due to anything physical but the thought of having to contact him or have any kind of dealings with him brings on panic attacks. I so desperately want a divorce as I’ve met a lovely guy and I just want to feel free again but I cannot bring myself to try and contact him….I will just add we have a now nearly 17 year old son together who he hasn’t seen or bothered with since 2007, owes thousands in child support and I have no idea where her lives. Thanks

    1. Thank you for your comment. It is very difficult to open contact again on a relationship which was abusive. You should take advice on how the divorce can progress and what contact you would need to have with your ex, if any, and how that could be managed.

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