When it comes to divorce, asking a judge to decide your financial settlement, should usually be a last resort, mainly because the process tends to be lengthy and expensive.
Sometimes, going to court is the only option for a couple. That feeling of apprehension that comes with entering a court room can be significantly increased, if you know that you will have to face your abusive spouse.
Courts are busy and the time spent waiting for your hearing date only adds to the stress and worry.
If you have suffered domestic abuse and are due to attend a family court, there are some things that you can do:
If you are worried about seeing your abusive ex-partner, you can ask the court to put special measures in place, such as audio or video link facilities, so you would not have to face your ex-partner in person when they are questioning you. You would usually need to apply for these ‘special measures’ before your hearings, so it is important to think about whether you would like to do this well in advance.
In recent years, the cuts to legal aid have been widely reported. However, if you or your children have been the victims of domestic abuse, you could still qualify for legal aid, if you cannot afford to pay the legal costs.
You will need to show that you or your children were at ‘risk of harm’ from your spouse with supporting evidence from the police or social services, for example.
You can find out more about this on the official government website.
Separate waiting rooms
Some courts have the facilities for you and your spouse to wait for your hearing in separate waiting rooms. Again, it is important to organise this in advance. You or your solicitor can telephone the court you will be attending to check if this is possible.
The run-up to court
You can apply to the courts for various orders to protect you from your abusive spouse. Occupation orders, for example, indicate who can live in the family home and can even order someone to vacate the family home.
Just like you may decide to get private healthcare rather than going through the NHS, you can opt to have the financial side of your divorce heard in the private sector by an arbitrator, instead of going to a public court.
There is usually a much smaller waiting time compared with that of a public court, which some people find helpful.
Many argue that the rules regarding victims of domestic abuse in family courts should not allow for cross examination by the abusive partner and a review is currently under way regarding this.
Going to court can be a daunting prospect, especially for those who know they may have to see their abusive spouse. Although you can represent yourself in court, it can be helpful to have a solicitor there, even if only for advice and support.
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