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Domestic abuse and my rights

Housing

You have rights to stay in your own home and make an abusive partner leave. If you have rights to stay in the family home then you can ask a solicitor to go to court and ask a sheriff to stop your partner from living with you and your children (If any). You can do this even if you aren’t staying in the house right now but you must ask the solicitor to do this within two years of you leaving.

If you need to leave home because of the abuse, you have the right to ask the council to provide you with temporary or permanent housing, they must treat you as ‘homeless’. The council should treat you as homeless even if you have a house which you can’t go back to because it’s not ok for you to do so. The council have a duty to provide you with emergency accommodation (this may be bed and breakfast to start with) while they look into your application.

If you need to leave the area you are in just now because it is not safe for you to stay you can move to another council area and you should be dealt with in the same way. Local Women’s Aid groups, Shelter or Citizens Advice Bureaus can help you if you have any problems getting accommodation.

Money Issues

If you are thinking about leaving your abusive partner you may be worried about how you can support yourself. Many women are reluctant to leave their partners because they don’t have the financial resources to support themselves on their own.

However, there are ways you can get help. If leaving your partner has left you without an income or on a very low income, you may be able to claim benefits such as income support or jobseeker’s allowance and housing benefit. If you are staying in a refuge or temporary accommodation and still need to pay rent on the home you have left, you may be able to claim housing benefit for two homes.

In an emergency, you may be able to get help from the Scottish Welfare Fund. Women’s Aid, Citizens Advice Bureau and other advice agencies can help you with this

If you are already claiming benefits (for example, child benefit), remember to contact them to let them know your change of address. If you are staying in a refuge or are worried about your partner finding you, you may want to use care of address, so that information is sent to a trusted friend or family member.

If you are working, you should let the tax office know about any changes as you may be entitled to tax credits

If you leave your partner, you can apply for child maintenance from them, to help with the costs of bringing up your children, although you may not wish to do this if it may cause you or your children further harm. If you are afraid that your partner may threaten you or your child if they are forced to pay child maintenance, it’s best to get advice from Citizens Advice or Women’s Aid group before making a claim.

The Child Maintenance Options website has more information on how to set up a maintenance agreement that works for you.

Legal Protection

If a partner or ex-partner is abusing or harassing you and/or your children, you can use the law to protect you.  If you choose to use the law, it is useful to have as much evidence as possible about what your partner/ex-partner has done to you.

This can be: text messages received, voicemails, anyone who has witnessed the abuse, and any medical records such as notes taken by your GP or dentist.

To get legal protection, you need to apply to the court, so you will have to speak with a solicitor who does family law, if you aren’t working or on a low income you may be able to get legal aid to help you pay for this.

There are three main types of legal action you can take:

  • An exclusion order is a court order that suspends the right of a married person, civil partner, or cohabitee to live in the family home.
  • An interdict is a court order that tells someone that they can’t do certain things such as approach you or contact you.
  • A non-harassment order is a court order which tell your partner to stop behaving in a certain way.

The law is not easy to understand so it may be helpful to speak to Women’s Aid or your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

They can tell you how to find a solicitor who is experienced in family law and give you information about what to expect.

They may also be able to accompany you to appointments.