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Options in domestic violence cases

This content applies to England & Wales

Options available to victims of domestic violence.

There are a number of options available to people suffering from domestic violence. In each individual case, the most appropriate option(s) will need to be pursued. Not every option will be available in every situation. The various courses of action can be pursued separately or at the same time.

Leaving the home

In some cases, a person may simply wish to leave her/his home, either permanently or for a short period of time, and may not wish to take any legal action against the perpetrator of the violence. There are often practical and emotional reasons for a person not to want to pursue legal remedies. In some instances, it may be difficult to use them, since they are not always easy to obtain or enforce and are very expensive if the person is not entitled to legal aid.

A person who leaves her/his home because of domestic violence can apply for homelessness assistance from the local authority and cannot be treated as intentionally homeless. For more on this option, see the page Leaving the home.

Taking action to remain at home

In other cases, a person may wish to take legal action against the perpetrator to stop the violence and allow her/him to remain in the home. Legal remedies are temporary measures that do not affect the long-term rights to the property involved. The legal remedies available are divided into criminal and civil actions.

Criminal proceedings

In criminal proceedings, the police brings the action and the Crown Prosecution Service prosecutes a defendant in the criminal courts. The outcome may be imprisonment or a non-custodial sentence and/or a fine.

Civil proceedings

In civil proceedings, a person (ie the claimant) sues or brings an action against another person (ie the defendant) in the civil courts. The outcome may be damages and/or an injunction. In certain cases, if a person breaks an injunction s/he becomes guilty of a criminal offence.

Long-term options are not covered in this section, apart from one specific circumstance that may be relevant to local authority and private registered providers of social housing (PRPSHs) tenants experiencing domestic violence (see the page Leaving the home for details).

For more detailed information about long-term action concerning property, see the other pages in the Relationship breakdown section.

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