As family law solicitors we are often asked whether it is OK to change the locks to the family home. Sometimes we are asked this question before a husband, wife, civil partner or unmarried partner has decided to separate. On other occasions, the locks have already been changed and an ex-partner has already been excluded from what was their family home.
For expert advice on family law call our team of specialist divorce lawyers or complete our online enquiry form.
Separation and changing the locks
Locks are a hot topic as emotions, trust, and control issues can all be engaged when the subject of locks and access to the family home is mentioned.
A lot of people assume that if the locks to the family home are changed that means the excluded spouse, civil partner, or cohabitee loses their legal rights or financial claims over the property. That assumption isn’t correct.
A change of locks does not confer ownership of a property on the spouse or partner who now controls access to the property. Your property rights will depend on your legal status – whether you are a spouse or civil partner or whether you were in an unmarried relationship. For spouses and civil partners, property rights stem from family law. For unmarried couples, their family home rights stem from an interpretation of property and trust law.
If you cannot agree with your partner on whether a house should be sold, or transferred to you or your ex-partner, then the court can decide on the appropriate order. In urgent cases involving domestic violence or abuse, the court can make a temporary injunction order to exclude a partner from the property. The court can then decide on long-term property ownership at a later date.
Changing the locks if you own the property
Some people assume that if they own the family home in their sole name, they can change the locks and exclude a spouse. That is not right. A spouse has a right of occupation in a family home, whether the property is owned in joint names or not. Whether or not the locks have been changed any financial claims to the house continue until there is an agreement or a family court order.
Another common assumption is that it is OK to change locks once a spouse has left the family home as once the decision to leave has been made by them then they cannot change their mind and come back. That is not correct either.
In some situations, a homeowner may ask their family law solicitor about changing locks as they want to feel in control of a property. In other cases, there are genuine worries either over privacy or personal security. If it is accepted that one spouse should leave the property then it is usual to agree that, whether they retain the key or not, they will only return at an agreed time and for a reason. For example, to collect remaining items.
If there are concerns about personal safety and domestic violence the court can make an injunction order setting out who can occupy a family home until a long-term decision is made on whether or not the house should be sold or transferred to one spouse or partner.
Changing the locks when you have children
Where there are children there is often an argument that a spouse or partner should retain a key so that they can come and go to see the children. Whether that works all depends on how a couple has managed their separation. In some scenarios, both adults and children are comfortable with mum or dad returning to put children to bed with a book or to babysit but, in other families, continued key access can give very mixed messages to both adults and children and cause anxiety.
It is important to talk to a family law solicitor about property ownership and locks and to reach an agreement on whether locks are changed or not. You may need to discuss whether you or your ex-partner can get access to the property until the financial settlement is reached.
Locks and reaching an agreement over the family home
The hot topic of locks should not distract from what is often the equally emotional but trickier issue of sorting out what will happen long-term with the family home.
The obtaining of estate agent appraisals and exploration of mortgage options enables a separated couple to make well-informed decisions about what they want to happen to the family home on a long-term basis. Those decisions can be made by the couple with the help of their family law solicitor or during family mediation.
If an agreement cannot be reached then whether you are a spouse, civil partner, or former cohabitee, the family court can be asked to sort out who is entitled to enter the property and live in it on a short and long-term basis. What is important to realise is that changing the locks to a family home does not confer property ownership as that is all down to agreement or the court order.
For expert advice on family law call our team of specialist divorce lawyers or complete our online enquiry form.
If you are in an abusive relationship then you may think that during the coronavirus outbreak there is no help available and that you’re ‘’on your own’’. Although all this talk of self-isolation and social distancing may make you feel like that, the message from family law solicitors is that ‘’you are not alone’’. There is help available during the coronavirus outbreak if you are in an abusive relationship. In this blog we look at your legal options if you are caught up in an abusive relationship and need help to get out of it during the coronavirus outbreak.
Online domestic violence and family law solicitors
Although law offices may be closed because of Covid-19, Cheshire and Manchester based Evolve Family Law solicitors are working online to support those at risk of domestic violence needing help to leave an abusive relationship during the Covid-19 lockdown. If you need legal assistance call us or complete our online enquiry form to set up a video conference or telephone appointment.
Coping in abusive relationships during the coronavirus outbreak
If your partner is abusive towards you then it is difficult enough to cope when life is ‘’normal’’. For many the fact that partners are now either working from home or not able to work, and so are based at home full time, is particularly hard. There is no escape from home for you to visit friends or family or go off to work.
Tensions can also be increased by your partner’s health or financial anxieties about Covid-19, their lack of ability to go to the pub or to the gym to meet up with their friends and the presence of the children twenty four hours a day at the family home.
The government has said that it wants Covid-19 to bring out ‘’the best in us’’. That is a laudable aim but sadly domestic violence organisations and family law solicitors know that, for some families, domestic abuse may increase because of having to spend so much time with a partner. Alternatively, partners who haven’t previously been abusive may snap and either lash out or become very coercive and controlling.
When you hear that the police are cracking down on people leaving their homes it may make you reluctant to leave or seek help from domestic violence organisations or family law solicitors but, coronavirus or not, if you are in an abusive relationship you should seek help.
Those people who are contacting us about abusive partners are often reluctant to acknowledge the extent of the abuse and prefer to minimise some of the partner’s behaviour, especially if it falls short of physical violence and involves coercive control such as:
Dictating what you can eat
Saying when you can watch the TV and what programmes you can watch
Checking your mobile phone or internet usage
Restricting when or if you can go out for your daily exercise or for essentials like food shopping
Forcing you to have sex
Not allowing you any freedom within your house by insisting on being in the same room as you
Listening into your phone calls to friends and family.
As the restrictions on the movement of people continues in force because of the Covid-19 pandemic the sort of coercive controlling behaviour that you could cope with when one or both of you were out working can become intolerable. However, there is help available.
Help if you are in an abusive relationship
The police, domestic violence organisations, the family courts and online family law solicitors are continuing to offer help to those trapped in an abusive relationship.
If you or your children are at risk of immediate harm then you should call the police. The police understand that the risks of domestic violence are increased during the current crisis. They may be able to arrest your partner. If the situation is so serious that you can't wait for the police to arrive you can leave with your children as the authorities will accept that leaving an abusive relationship is an emergency and that is an exception to the requirement to stay indoors.
In addition to the police there are various domestic violence organisations who are open and available to help and offer support:
The National Domestic Violence Helpline – 0808 2000 247
The Men’s Advice Line – 0808 801 0327
The Mix, information and support for under 25s in the UK – 0808 808 4994
The National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0800 999 5428
The Samaritans – 116 123
In addition to police and domestic violence organisation help the family court and domestic violence solicitors are open to help you if you need court protection in the form of an injunction order.
Injunctions against domestic violence during the Covid-19 outbreak
You may have read that most courts and public offices are closed. Whilst that is correct the family courts are open for remote emergency hearings including applications for:
Non-molestation injunction orders
Emergency child arrangements orders and other types of children orders to safeguard and protect children.
Therefore, if you are in an abusive relationship, there is help available from the family court. Don’t worry that you may not be able to get to see a family law solicitor. Even prior to the coronavirus outbreak many family law and domestic violence solicitors were used to taking instructions by phone appointment or video conference and used to conducting court hearings remotely.
That isn’t to say that things are a bit of a challenge but if you need help then both the court and family law solicitors are just a phone call away.
If you need protection then a family law injunction order may be your best option. There are two types of family law injunction order:
A non-molestation order – to stop your partner from being physically violent or aggressive or verbally abusive or exerting coercive control over you
An occupation order – to stop your partner from returning to the family home (if he/she has left but is threatening to return to the family home) or to make your partner leave the family home or to restrict him/her to certain parts of the family home.
The court and family law solicitors also recognise that you might need help if you are living with extended family and are being subjected to domestic violence or coercive control or that you may need help with your children and need the security of a children order, such as
A child arrangements order
A specific issue order
A prohibited steps order.
It is often the case that people suffer in silence when they live with an abusive partner or they think that what they are coping with isn’t ‘’bad enough’’ to get help. Since the Covid 19 rules on restriction of movement have come in many have thought that they are trapped in an abusive relationship for the duration of lockdown. Domestic violence organisations, the police, courts and family law solicitors are saying that domestic violence and abusive behaviour isn’t right in any circumstances and that if you need help then call.
Online family law solicitors
The specialist family lawyers at Evolve Family Law can help you if you are in an abusive relationship and you need legal help. Call us or complete our online enquiry form for a video conference or telephone appointment.
By guest blogger Anoushka Macin of Balance Psychologies
You have decided or it may have been decided for you that you no longer want to stay in a relationship that is tormenting you. Leaving a narcissistic relationship is one of the hardest things to do. In my work with clients and with my online community I provide lots of information to people who find themselves with a narcissist or toxic individual. Here is how to get out safely with your wellbeing intact.
When we fall in love it’s natural to attach and form a romantic bond, but once in love with a narcissist it is not easy to leave let alone detach from them.
Why it’s hard to break up with a narcissist
Pathological narcissists or people with narcissistic traits present as charming, interesting and seductive to be around and will treat you with kindness and warmth. They may even love bomb you. This is where the dysfunctional attachment to the narcissist begins. I am not saying that it is wrong that you are being treated with kindness, charm and respect at the beginning. Of course you want to be with them but you become easily dependent on their attention and validation of you.
Once you are hooked onto this they become secure and then they aren’t motivated to be nice to you. Their charm, warmth and respect fades and is replaced or intermixed with varying degrees of criticism, demands, coldness and emotional abuse. You become accommodating and try to win their love and attention back and meanwhile your self-esteem and independence of mind are compromised. You may even become gas lighted and begin to doubt your own decisions and perceptions due to blame and lies. When you question this you become attacked, intimidated and confused by manipulation.
Over time you learn to accept the abuse or even attempt to avoid conflict and become deferential. Because facing the reality is too painful. To leave is the only option as this behavior becomes a cycle of abuse and unfortunately you are too weak and vulnerable to be able to do anything about it. You cannot save them, only yourself. Below are some tips and strategies that may help you to cope and heal after leaving a narcissistic relationship.
Go no contact - limited no contact
Block them! I mean of all your communication avenues. That means phone, email and social media. You need some time to yourself to ‘breathe’ and get your thoughts in order. You are not going to be able to do that if you have constant abuse through secondary sources. The narcissist will try to contact you! You have to cut off this communication, you need some time to get your mind in order.
Now, this may not be as straight forward if there are children involved, so what I suggest here is limited contact. I feel that at the beginning of this process do go no contact but only when you are ready begin with limited contact and it needs to stay like that. So, what does limited contact look like? It will mean that you have to clarify what it is that you are communicating with the narcissist, be specific and stick to only the facts that you want to get across. Take the emotion out of the content that you are talking about, this will give you the advantage. Please know that the narcissist will use your triggers and emotions against you to trip you up and get what they want. As these interactions are about gaining power over you and controlling the conversation, to do that they need to initiate an emotional reaction out of you and will press your buttons. Be wise to this and prepare yourself accordingly.
Join a support group
It is really important at this time that you have support of people that understand and care for you. Having to explain your decisions to people who do not get it, is not good for you to be around them at the moment. You need to surround yourself with people who give you positive validation. Finding a therapist might be a good idea too.
Become more autonomous
To heal and move forward from an abusive relationship it is helpful to build a life outside of the relationship that includes separate friends, hobbies and other interests. When you leave you will need a fulfilling life to supplement or replace the relationship. You will need to surround yourself with positive things that will help you to heal and remind you that there is a life outside of this person and relationship.
Build your self esteem
This is very important, you will need all the strength that you need. It is important to reconnect with yourself and get to know you all over again. In relationships such as these your identity would have been compromised and diminished, therefore reconnecting to your own needs and values is important to build your inner strength. You will need to learn to become more assertive and build boundaries.
Learn how to nurture yourself
This follows on from the last point of reconnecting with yourself. Learning your needs and putting them first. This is really important if you have children as you will be teaching them to value themselves and to build a robust connection to self. This is a life skill and will insulate you from the abuse.
Please allow yourself time to grieve the relationship and false future promises that were made to you in the relationship. This will help you to process your emotions and recover from the relationship. I would also urge you to find an experienced Manchester divorce solicitor who has the understanding and experience of dealing with narcissistic personalities. Mediation is not a good option where there is a history of abuse.
As long as you’re under the spell of the narcissist, they have control over you. In order to become empowered you will need to educate yourself. Come out denial and see the reality of what this really is. Information is power. Read up on narcissism and abuse, I have a lot of information on my website. Regardless of your decision, it is important for your own mental health and to redeem your autonomy and self-esteem.
By guest blogger Anoushka Macin of Balance Psychologies
guest blogger Anoushka Macin of Balance Psychologies
In the past you could only get a judge to make a family law injunction order if there had been domestic violence involving a trip to the hospital or doctor. Those days are long gone with family judges realising that any form of domestic violence, from serious sexual assault to slap or push, is unacceptable. The law now allows you to apply for a family law injunction order if you are subjected to coercive control and behaviour. In this blog we look at what is meant by coercive control and behaviour.
Evolve Family Law solicitors are approachable and friendly, providing expert divorce, children and financial settlement advice, with experience in handling separations or divorces where a partner has been abusive or is narcissistic and controlling. Contact us today and let us help you.
What is Coercive Behaviour?
The question ‘what is coercive behaviour?’ is a good one as what one person would describe as coercive and controlling behaviour may be the normal experience of a husband, wife or partner who is so used to such controlling behaviour that they have become immune to it and adapted their life and thought processes around their partner’s behaviour so as not to upset them or to fit in.
It is often only when you see your husband, wife, or partner starting to exercise the same coercive behaviour on your child and you see the impact of that behaviour on your child’s demeanour and personality that you realise that you have got to do something. In other families it takes a close friend or family member to point out that what your partner sees as loving behaviour is actually stifling you and is coercive behaviour.
From a Cheshire divorce and family law solicitor’s perspective coercive behaviour is any act designed to force or coerce you into doing something against your will or that is intended to harm or intimidate you. Acts can include physical threats as well other forms of humiliation or words said by your partner that make you feel as if you are no longer in control of your life or actions.
The government says that coercive and controlling behaviour is an act designed to make you feel subordinate or dependent on your partner and gives examples of:
Isolation from friends and family
Stopping you from being independent
Regulating your behaviour.
Examples of Coercive Behaviour
It is all very well to be told what the government thinks is coercive behaviour but how does that translate into real life? Below are some examples of real life coercive behaviour:
Controlling what you eat and weigh (it may be said that this is for ‘your own good’ to make you attractive but it is still coercive and controlling behaviour)
Stopping you from having a shower or bath at times other than stipulated
Preventing you from leaving the family home on your own or stopping you from seeing your friends and family
Restricting your access to money so you only get an allowance to buy food and have to account for any money spent by you
Telling you that you can't pick up the baby or play with the children other than at times allowed
Telling you that you can't go online or monitoring your computer and telephone usage
Dictating what clothes you should wear (either too modest or too flamboyant for your taste) or saying what make-up you can wear (if any).
Coercion and control doesn’t just happen to women in heterosexual relationships. Women can also coerce and control their male partners or husbands. Coercion and control also occurs in same sex relationships.
If something amounts to coercive and controlling behaviour then it doesn’t matter if you are married, in a civil partnership or cohabiting and living together. It is the act or behaviour that is important rather than the legal status of your family relationship.
Recognising Coercive Behaviour
Coercive and controlling behaviour can be insidious and hard for you or your friends and family to spot. That is because the coercion can be subtle (for example, ‘you look fat or tarty in that outfit’) or the degree of control can grow slowly over time so you don’t recognise it for what it is (for example, getting you to agree that it is too much hassle to see your mother every week to eventually telling you who you can and can't see).
When you are in a relationship, or you are a close friend or family member, it can be hard to spot or recognise coercive behaviour, often because it is dressed up as ‘only wanting to do what is best’ or because it is said you are so stupid or mentally unwell that your partner or husband or wife knows what is best for you.
Don’t forget that coercion and controlling behaviour doesn’t have to be face to face. Some of the most intimidating coercive behaviour can be carried out by bombarding someone with text messages and phone calls or remotely spying on activities.
What can I do about coercive behaviour in my relationship?
If you are being subjected to coercion and control in your relationship then you can:
Try and get your partner to see his/her behaviour for what it is. This may involve counselling to get to the root cause of the coercive behaviour. In some family situations the nature of the coercive control is such that it is not safe or healthy for you to stay in the relationship and so counselling and trying to stay together may not be a realistic option as you need to leave the family home and separate permanently
Separate and start divorce proceedings. If your husband or wife has exercised coercive or controlling behaviour you should be able to start divorce proceedings based on their unreasonable behaviour. Even if you don’t want to start divorce proceedings based on your spouse’s unreasonable behaviour it is still important to tell your divorce solicitor about the behaviour. They can talk to you about your divorce proceedings options, such as starting divorce proceedings on your partner’s new relationship (adultery)
Separate and start injunction proceedings. An injunction order is made by the family court. The court can either make a non-molestation or an occupation order to protect you and your children
Make a complaint to the police. The Serious Crime Act 2015 created a new criminal offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in intimate or familial relationship’. If your partner is found guilty then in a serious case of coercive behaviour they could be sent to prison for up to five years.
What is a non-molestation order?
A non-molestation injunction order is a family court order that stops the person who is behaving in a coercive or controlling manner towards you or your child from continuing to do so.
What is an occupation order?
An occupation injunction order is a family court order that stops the person who is behaving in a coercive or controlling manner towards you or your child from continuing to live at the family home or from re-entering the family home or restricts your partner or spouse from certain rooms in the family home.
Breaching an injunction order
If your partner or spouse breaches a family court injunction order then it is a contempt of court and a criminal offence.
Talking to your divorce and family law solicitor about coercive behaviour
If you take the step of deciding to speak to a Cheshire divorce solicitor about your marriage or relationship it is important to tell them about the coercive control. Many people are too embarrassed to talk about their partner or spouse’s behaviour or they decide that their partner’s behaviour isn’t relevant because they don’t want to start divorce proceedings based on unreasonable behaviour or start injunction proceedings.
Even if you don’t want your divorce solicitor to act on the coercive behaviour information you give them, it is still important to tell them about it so that they understand why you may have concerns about your children having contact and why you want a child arrangements order or why you may want a financial settlement that includes a clean break financial court order so there are no ongoing financial ties between you and your husband or wife.
Cheshire divorce solicitors won't judge you or criticise you for not leaving your partner any earlier. However, what they will do is support you during your relationship breakdown, finding the best long term family solutions for you and your family and to do that they need to know about the coercive and controlling behaviour to help you and your family.
It is difficult making the decision to leave a husband, wife or partner. People often think that the decision to separate is easy if you are leaving an abusive partner as ending the relationship is the ‘obvious’ thing to do. As a Cheshire divorce solicitor witnessing and helping those involved in abusive relationships, I know that it is no easier to leave an abusive partner than it is to leave a caring and kind partner that you have drifted apart from. Any separation or divorce is a painful process but it can be particularly difficult when you are leaving an abusive partner. That’s why it helps if your divorce solicitor has experience of helping others separate from abusive partners.
How do you leave an abusive partner?
You may think the answer to the question ‘how do you leave an abusive partner?’ is obvious – you just get up and leave. However Cheshire divorce solicitors who work with people in abusive relationships know that it isn’t as easy as that.
If you are in an abusive relationship it is particularly important to plan your departure to make sure you and your children are safe. Here are our tips on leaving an abusive partner:
Get help and support – the support can be from friends, family, your doctor or counsellor, the police, domestic violence agency or other source. Without help you might be tempted to think that your partner has changed and that it is safe to go back or want to go back to the property on your own to pick up extra possessions or to meet your partner to hand the children over for contact;
Have an escape plan – if you are leaving a partner it is normal to discuss why the relationship hasn’t worked out and why you are either leaving or want them to go. If you are leaving an abusive partner it may not be safe to have that discussion and you may therefore either need to leave without telling them about your plans or where you are going. You may not have to leave the family home if you can get injunction orders to protect you;
Be practical – most people with abusive personalities are wily characters. If you are making phone calls or using the internet or you or the children are posting things on Facebook, think about whether your abusive partner will be able to trace you from those activities. If you are planning on leaving think what you will need to take with you so you don’t have to return to collect essential items. If the children are in school make sure teachers know why you may need to collect the children early or arrange for someone else to do so;
Protect yourself – if you are at immediate risk then don’t follow any escape plan but get immediate help from the police. If you are not at immediate risk but are worried about your safety then speak to a Cheshire divorce solicitor about getting emergency injunction orders (called non-molestation and occupation orders) or children orders (called child arrangements orders or prohibited steps orders) to safeguard your children if you are concerned about the risk of child abduction;
Take legal advice – ideally you should take legal advice before you leave an abusive partner so that you know where you stand legally and whether, for example, you can make them leave the family home , if you can change the locks or stop contact or get interim financial support;
Be strong – you probably think that you are not strong enough to leave or to withstand the pressure from your partner to return or their attempts to find you and exact revenge because you left. An honest Cheshire divorce solicitor will tell you that leaving isn’t the easy option and that you therefore need to be strong to get through leaving an abusive partner and to make sure you have the help and support you need to get through it.
Is my partner abusive?
You may think that the question ‘Is my partner abusive?’ should have a straight forward answer. However, Cheshire divorce solicitors will tell you that it isn’t uncommon for those leaving abusive relationships to not recognise their partner’s behaviour as abuse. That can be for a variety of reasons such as:
They understandably don’t want to be seen as a victim of abuse and so minimise their partner’s behaviour;
They have a very narrow view of what amounts to abusive behaviour because they don’t see psychological abuse or coercive and controlling behaviour as abusive;
They have been coached into thinking that their partner’s behaviour is normal or that it only occurs because of their unreasonable demands;
Their partner isn’t abusive to the children so it must be their behaviour that is at fault and not that of their partner.
Most Cheshire divorce solicitors understand why the abuse isn’t recognised as abuse during the relationship and therefore why it is so hard to recognise the behaviour as abuse when you are separating. After all, if you have been told repeatedly that it is you that is ‘mental’ or the one with the ‘problem’, it is all too easy to get sucked into believing that the abuse is only because your partner cares about you.
The definition of what amounts to abuse in a relationship is very wide. Nowadays courts and divorce lawyers recognise that abuse in a relationship isn’t limited to physical assaults but includes:
Verbal and emotional abuse, such as belittling you or telling you that you are mentally unwell or not a fit parent;
Financial control, such as withholding money from you so you are reliant on your partner;
Intimidation and mind games, such as telling you that they will kill themselves or leave their job so you will end up with nothing but guilt if you leave;
Exercising coercion and control, such as not letting you see your family or being unwilling to let you go out to work or to have a bank account in your own name.
There are numerous examples of what amounts to abusive behaviour in a relationship. Sometimes it takes talking to a friend, counsellor or a Cheshire divorce solicitor about your relationship to recognise the behaviour for what it is and to start to acknowledge the physical and emotional impact of your partner’s abusive behaviour on you.
Leaving an abusive partner
If you are contemplating leaving an abusive partner the number one priority is to make sure that you are safe and are empowered to do so. It is stressful leaving any relationship but if your partner is abusive the physical departure can be a dangerous trigger point unless handled carefully. Just as importantly, if you have been in an abusive relationship for a long time it can be easy to succumb to promises of change or being told that you can't leave because you won't be able to take the children with you or you won't get a penny.
It can feel as if there is no escape from an abusive partner but that isn’t the case. With the right emotional and legal support you can leave an abusive partner safely and rebuild your life.
Getting help with an abusive partner
When you live with an abusive partner it is hard to reach out and ask for help. That can be down to feelings of embarrassment or because you love your partner and want to stay in the relationship but just want the abuse to stop. Cheshire divorce solicitors find it is often the case that those in abusive relationships are too frightened to speak out and ask for help as they fear what will happen if they do. That is totally understandable as the last thing that you or they want is for your situation to be any worse than it is.
One thing that a solicitor can promise you is that if you seek help from them then what you say is totally confidential. The fact that you have taken advice from a solicitor and the advice information given won't be disclosed to anyone, unless you give your permission to do so.
If you are worried about seeing a divorce solicitor then you are welcome to come to a meeting to discuss leaving an abusive partner with a friend or member of your family. They can help give you the courage to leave, but remember that whilst friends and family can offer emotional and practical support, the decision to leave has to come from you.
If you don’t have friends or family to support you (or would be worried about things getting back to your partner) there are many supportive organisations and charities who are there to help with information and advice as well as individuals , such as your GP or a counsellor , who can support you in your decision to leave your abusive partner.
Divorcing an abusive partner
If your husband or wife is an abusive partner then a Cheshire divorce solicitor will tell you that you will have the grounds to start divorce proceedings on the basis of unreasonable behaviour. Allegations of unreasonable behaviour don’t have to include physical violence but can also include behaviour such as:
Belittling you in front of your family; or
Not being willing to let you see your friends; or
Criticising your actions and telling you that you are stupid.
If you are dealing with an abusive husband or wife you will need a Cheshire divorce solicitor who can stand up to your partner, make sure that you and your children get the legal protection you need , but who will also ensure that your voice is heard and help you make your own decisions about what you want.
Children and leaving an abusive partner
It isn’t unusual for Cheshire divorce solicitors to be told that someone has stayed in an abusive relationship for years ‘for the sake of the children’. That can be down to a whole variety of factors, such as:
Your abusive partner has told you that they will get custody of the children and they won't let you see the children because they will turn the children against you;
You think that you would have to leave the family home and you are worried that this will affect the children ;
The children love their other parent and you don’t want them to grow up in a single parent family;
The timing to separate isn’t right because of a child’s exams or the start of primary or secondary school.
Cheshire divorce solicitors will tell you that all the research into children and separation and divorce shows that:
Children are remarkably resilient;
More often than not children know when there is something wrong with their parent’s relationship. Although the children may not have seen any domestic violence or physical assaults, because you have protected them, they can still pick up on the vibe in the household and be emotionally affected by it;
Children prefer to live in two households rather than have their parents living together but in an abusive relationship with a toxic atmosphere.
It is natural to feel very anxious about childcare arrangements if you are planning to leave an abusive partner. The first priority is to ensure that you and the children are safe from any domestic violence (or the children witnessing it) so injunction applications can be made to safeguard you and the children. In addition you can apply for a child arrangements order. In an emergency a child arrangements order can be made quickly to protect the children. A child arrangements order can:
Say the children should live with you – on a short term or long term basis;
Set out if the children should see your partner, and if so, whether the contact visits should take place in a supervised setting (for example at a contact centre or in the presence of a member of your family or a trusted friend) and spell out the safe handover and collection arrangements.
If you and your abusive partner have to go to court to sort out the child care arrangements it is important that:
Your husband or wife's abusive behaviour and its impact on you and the children is explained by your solicitor as part of the court process; and
The court looks at whether a finding of fact hearing is needed to decide on the domestic abuse allegations before it makes orders under the Children Act.
If a finding of abuse is made then the court should only make a child arrangements order and contact with the abusive parent if the court believes that the physical and emotional safety of you and your children can be protected before, during and after the contact.
Many divorcing partners are adamant that they want their children to see their other parent, notwithstanding the fact that there has been abuse within the relationship. That is because they want their children to have a relationship with both parents. If you are satisfied that the children will be safe during contact then it is then essential to ensure that you are also safe during the handover of the children for contact. For example, you may not want your abusive partner coming to the house to collect the children but would prefer a neutral handover where there is less chance that your partner will ‘kick off’ or say anything that will upset the children.
A specialist Cheshire divorce solicitor can either represent you in court proceedings for a child arrangements order so that your children live with you, or to stop or limit contact or can help you negotiate the parenting arrangements on a short term and long term basis.
Leaving an abusive partner and getting a financial settlement
It is natural to worry that even if you are safely able to leave an abusive partner that they will make sure that you ‘end up with nothing’. Cheshire divorce solicitors are experts in making sure that not only are you protected from an abusive partner but that you also receive a fair financial settlement and that you are not bullied or coerced into accepting less than you need or are entitled to.
Divorce solicitors can either negotiate with your ex-partner or start financial court proceedings . Whether you negotiate or start court proceedings the important thing is that you have a solicitor on your side making sure you have the information and financial disclosure orders necessary to make financial decisions and that any financial settlement is reality tested to make sure that the financial court order meets your needs and is capable of enforcement if your partner remains difficult and uncooperative.
Abusive partners tend to be bullies and don’t want or like anyone standing up to them. Courts don’t like bullies so whether you are being physically assaulted, emotionally abused or financially controlled there is help available from Cheshire divorce solicitors and the family court, for example help to:
Physically protect you – through the making of non-molestation and occupation injunction orders;
Financially protect you – through the making of child support, spousal maintenance , property and pension orders and orders to enforce compliance if your abusive partner won't comply with court orders;
Protect the family – through child arrangements orders to ensure your children are safe.
Evolve Family Law solicitors are approachable and friendly. We provide the expert divorce, children and financial settlement advice that you need when you are separating from an abusive partner and need someone on your side. Contact us today and let us help you.
I have considerable experience in divorcing a narcissist. That’s because as a Cheshire divorce solicitor many people ask me for help in sorting out their separation or divorce. Some family clients tell me at our first meeting that their husband or wife has a narcissistic personality disorder. Other clients think that their husband or wife behaves unreasonably and that their spouse has some of the traits of a narcissist. Dealing with a spouse with a narcissistic personality is difficult, especially when you are trying to divorce and move on with your life. That’s why it helps if your solicitor has experience of divorcing a narcissist.
Is my spouse a narcissist?
In any blog on divorcing a narcissist, it is important to look at some of the essential traits of a narcissist to help you understand if your spouse has narcissistic personality characteristics.
The Oxford dictionary defines a narcissist as a person who has an excessive interest in or admiration of themselves. Narcissists are said to have the following personality traits:
A sense of self-importance;
A sense of entitlement;
Requiring praise and attention;
Willing to exploit and use others without feeling a sense of guilt or shame;
Able to demean and belittle other people without worrying about the impact of their behaviour;
Able to live in their own fantasy world where they are the centre of attention.
Do any of those traits sound like your husband or wife? If so, you may need help from a counsellor or, if you have decided to separate or divorce, from a specialist Cheshire divorce solicitor.
Getting divorced from a narcissist
It is stressful going through a divorce, even when it is amicable. However, when your husband or wife is a narcissist it can feel as if there is no escape from your marriage. There is, but you will need support, both legal and emotional.
If you are married to someone who exhibits narcissistic traits or has a narcissistic personality disorder then you have to accept that your husband or wife won't think that they are at fault or that anything they do is wrong. It is therefore pretty futile to have direct discussions on the reasons behind why you want to get divorced in the hope that they will understand your point of view. If they are a narcissist they won't.
Any discussion about your marriage and separation will be turned by your husband or wife into a tirade on looking at the impact of what is happening on them, rather than the impact on you or the children. If you have the sort of personality that gets stressed or you know you will end up too frazzled to deal with the separation if your spouse starts to belittle you, then it may be best to leave things in the hands of your divorce solicitor. A solicitor who has experience with narcissistic personality disorders and divorce will have the strategies to be able to sort out your separation and divorce.
Divorce proceedings and narcissists
If you are married to a narcissist then you can be confident that you will have the grounds to start divorce proceedings against them. That is because, under current divorce law, you can start divorce proceedings if your marriage has irretrievably broken down and your husband or wife has behaved unreasonably.
What counts as unreasonable behaviour is the typical behaviour of a narcissist. For example:
Belittling you in front of friends or family; or
Not being willing to share household tasks; or
Prioritising themselves and their interests above anyone else , including the children; or
Not being willing to listen to you; or
Making you feel at fault, for example, by saying you are the one who is mentally ill or who is a poor parent.
Divorcing someone with a narcissistic personality disorder isn’t easy. Often they will say that the marriage hasn’t irretrievably broken down (when it clearly has) or they will deny all responsibility for their behaviour and say that they will defend the divorce proceedings. If you are dealing with a narcissist husband or wife you need a strong, no-nonsense solicitor on your side who won't get caught up in your spouse’s tirades but instead will focus on your divorce and sorting out the arrangements for the children and the financial settlement.
Getting help with a narcissist spouse
When you are separating or getting divorced from a narcissist spouse then you need all the legal and emotional support you can get. Your friends and family may not realise what you have been through and are currently coping with. That is because your spouse may present a ‘front’ to the outside world where he/ she appears charming and worried about you and your ‘breakdown’.
First and foremost there is no point in challenging what your spouse is saying to friends and family. If you do then it is only likely to fuel matters as your husband or wife won't be able to see the error of their ways as they are only able to see things from their perspective. That can be very hard for you to cope with. That’s why seeing a counsellor or therapist can really help you see the situation you are in for what it is, rather than accepting your spouse’s interpretation of events based on their fantasy world where you are the only one at fault.
Divorce and the narcissist parent
When you are divorcing a husband or wife with narcissist traits or who has a narcissistic personality disorder it is easy to feel very guilty about your children and in a quandary about what to do about childcare arrangements. Whilst your spouse is only likely to be interested in themselves, they may ask the court to order that the children live with him or her as part of their mind control games or because they know their stance will frighten you.
Whilst it can be tempting to say that a parent with a narcissistic personality disorder should not have contact with their children after the separation or divorce this may not be realistic. For example, older children may want ongoing contact with the other parent or you may need help with childcare. What’s more if you say that you do not want your child to have contact with the other parent they may raise accusations of parental alienation although all you are trying to do is to protect your child from a parent with a narcissistic personality disorder.
If you and your spouse end up in court over the childcare arrangements it is important that:
Your husband or wife's narcissistic traits are outlined neutrally; and
The impact of their behaviour on you and your children is fully explained. That is important because many of the behaviours of a narcissist amount to abuse, such as controlling or coercive behaviour.
In children court proceedings a court has to carefully consider any allegations of domestic abuse . Abuse includes emotional abuse or psychological abuse of you or the children. If a finding of abuse is made then the court should only make a child arrangements order and contact with the narcissistic parent if the court is satisfied that the physical and emotional safety of the child and the parent with whom the child lives can, as far as possible, be secured before, during and after the contact.
An experienced Cheshire divorce solicitor can put the case in children proceedings for expert reports on a parent with narcissistic personality disorder or narcissistic traits. A psychologist or other expert can be asked to report on either the parent or on the whole family and assess the impact of the narcissistic parent’s behaviour on you and the children.
Many divorcing partners are wary about labelling a narcissistic parent an ‘abuser’ but it is important to recognise that abuse isn’t just physical and the effects of coercive and controlling behaviour can be insidious on you and your children. A specialist Cheshire divorce solicitor can help you recognise that and work out childcare arrangements that best protect your children or can robustly represent you in court proceedings.
How to get a financial settlement from a narcissist
Normally a Cheshire divorce solicitor will recommend that they negotiate with your spouse to reach a financial settlement. If your spouse is a narcissist or has a narcissistic personality disorder then the advice may be different. That’s because it can be impossible to negotiate with a narcissist as they always think they are right and can't see anyone else’s point of view, other than their own. To the narcissist it is all about their financial wants and needs and not yours or the children’s needs.
If you start financial court proceedings there is a court timetable put in place so your spouse can't delay or prevaricate and the judge can ultimately decide on what financial orders are made. No one likes to think that a judge will take control of the family finances and make a financial court order deciding whether, for example, the family home should be sold or if you should get a share of the pension or the family business. However, when you are dealing with a narcissist there may be little alternative as your spouse won't be prepared to compromise.
You may think that you know your spouse and that even if the family judge makes an order to transfer the family home into your sole name that your spouse will not sign the paperwork to do so. The court is used to dealing with spouses who won't co-operate so, if necessary, the judge can sign the property paperwork on behalf of your spouse. The court also has the power to make financial disclosure orders and to draw adverse inferences if your spouse just won't accept the authority of the court.
Narcissistic spouses like to think that they are very powerful, during the relationship and during the divorce, children and financial proceedings. That is why it is so important that you chose a divorce solicitor who won't be intimidated or fazed by your spouse’s behaviour. Instead your divorce solicitor will focus on securing your divorce and obtaining children and financial court orders that best meet yours and your children’s needs.
Evolve Family Law solicitors are approachable and friendly providing expert divorce, children and financial settlement advice with experience in handling divorces where a spouse has a narcissistic personality disorder. Contact us today and let us help you
You would think that in the 21 century we would all know what domestic abuse is. Sadly, that is still not the case. As a divorce and children solicitor, I still come across spouses and other legal professionals who talk of ‘a bit of a push' or seem to think that the inappropriate behaviour was ok because the children did not see it.
The good news is that domestic violence is now in the news for the right reasons as the government is introducing a new bill that will:
Introduce a legal definition of domestic abuse to include economic abuse, as well as controlling and manipulative non-physical abuse; and
Stop the cross-examination of domestic violence victims by their abusive ex-partners in the family courts ; and
Make domestic violence perpetrators go into behaviour-changing rehabilitation programmes ; and
Make victims of domestic violence automatically able to get protection when they give evidence in criminal trials ; and
Clarify how “Clare's Law” should work. This law lets the police tell a member of the public if there are concerns over about previous violence committed by their partner ; and
The creation of the role of national domestic abuse commissioner. They will improve the public services response and support for victims of domestic violence.
What is domestic abuse?
Some forms of domestic abuse are obvious but I will list them all:
Physical abuse ; this can range from extreme violence to a punch , shove or push;
Sexual abuse; this can be all forms of unwanted sexual contact;
Psychological or mental abuse; this can range from extreme mind games to derogatory remarks , for example ,telling someone they are a ‘’nutter’’ ;
Harassment ; this can range from stalking type behaviour outside someone’s home to online harassment on social media accounts;
Coercion and control; this can take many forms; from not allowing a spouse to leave the family home unaccompanied to financial control and restricting a spouse’s access to funds.
Some people will not recognise all of those behaviours as abusive but they are.
Response to domestic abuse
As a divorce and children solicitor, I meet husband and wives’ who have been subjected to domestic abuse. Their response can be:
Accepting of the behaviour ; often a spouse will be told that the domestic abuse is their fault , for example , if only they did not ‘‘wind them up’’ it would not happen;
Normalising the behaviour ; thinking that it is’’ just a bit of a slap’’;
Denying the behaviour ; thinking that the domestic abuse is ‘’ all in their mind,’’ often after having been repeatedly told that they are the ones with the mental illness;
Responding to the behaviour ; by starting to become abusive to their spouse or others as domestic abuse has become the ‘’norm’’ within the household;
Justifying the behaviour; for example saying that the domestic abuse only happens because of a spouse’s stressful job or family pressures.
However, someone responds to domestic abuse they will need help and support to come to terms with the impact of domestic abuse.
The impact of domestic abuse
Most experts are agreed that being subjected to or witnessing domestic abuse can lead to:
Isolation from friends and family;
Often spouses take the decision to leave when they see the impact that adult domestic abuse is having on the children. A parent can be a loving mum or dad to their children but abuse their spouse. Even if the children do not always see the abuse, the atmosphere and tension can be very damaging to their welfare.
Injunction court orders
An injunction order is just one means of protecting a spouse or children from domestic abuse.
An injunction is a court order stopping a named person from taking a step or ordering a step to be taken, such as:
Stopping an assault or harassment by an ex- partner (called a non-molestation order);
Ordering one spouse to leave a family home until the court decides what should happen long term with the family home (called an occupation order );
Removing a child from one parent’s care if child abduction is a fear;
Preventing one spouse from taking money and assets until the court decides how property and assets is split in the financial settlement (called a freezing order).
If you are concerned about your children, the court can also make an urgent child arrangements order. This order settles with whom the children should live and whether they should have contact with the other parent. In a crisis, the court can make temporary orders in addition to injunction orders.
How do you get an injunction order?
You, or your solicitor, have to make a court application, supported by a statement and evidence. The evidence you need depends on what you are trying to stop or prevent.
What are the grounds for an injunction order?
The grounds depend on the injunction order that is requested from the court.
If you are worried about your safety or the physical or emotional safety of your child, Evolve Family Law can assess your options, including the option of applying for an injunction order.
Is an injunction order permanent?
Normally injunctions are temporary court orders designed to help a family until they or, if necessary, the court is able to make long-term decisions about the custody and contact arrangements for a child or the sale or transfer of the family home. However, an injunction order can be an essential protective measure that is needed before long term decisions can be made.
Legal help with domestic abuse
If you need help to apply for or oppose an injunction or children application then our specialist team of family solicitors can help take urgent steps to protect you and your family. Contact Us Today