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What is Coercive Control?

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A family law solicitor may mention coercive control to you but what does it mean? Just as importantly what can you do about it if you are subject to coercive control and want to get out of an abusive relationship? In this blog we explore the topic of coercive control and look at how a family law solicitor can help you.

London family law solicitors

If you need help and advice about separating from your partner, husband or wife then the family law team at OTS Solicitors can help you. Call us on 0203 959 9123 for specialist legal advice from friendly, approachable solicitors or click here.

What is coercive control?

Most experienced family law solicitors know not to ask the question ‘are you being subjected to coercive control by your partner?’ because most people understandably struggle with what is meant by the concept. Also, if you are in an abusive relationship, you can easily get sucked into thinking that your partner’s behaviour is normal and that he or she is controlling you because they love you so much. Others know or suspect that their partner’s behaviour is controlling but have devised ways to cope with their partner’s abusive behaviour and so are reluctant to acknowledge the coercion.

London family law solicitors will tell you that coercive behaviour is defined as any act that forces or coerces you into doing something against your will or is any act intended to harm or intimidate you.  An ‘act’ isn’t just physical violence but includes emotional or psychological abuse that has the effect of coercing or controlling you.

It is easier to understand how wide coercive control is by looking at examples of coercive control. Often by looking at examples of coercive control and abusive behaviour you can relate elements of that behaviour to your own life.

Examples of coercive and controlling behaviour include:

  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Preventing you from being independent, for example, refusing to let you go out to work or to have your own bank account
  • Regulating your behaviour, for example, preventing you from leaving the family home unless you are accompanied or restricting what you can eat by controlling your diet or controlling what you are allowed to watch on the television
  • Controlling you by monitoring your telephone or computer use
  • Telling you what is appropriate for you to wear.

These are just a few examples of coercive control and abusive behaviour. There are many other examples.

Many people assume that only women are subject to coercive control but family law solicitors will tell you that coercive control can be carried out by women on their male partners and also happens in same sex relationships. Whatever type of relationship you are in coercive control isn’t acceptable and help is available.

What can I do about coercive control in my relationship?

If you recognise that there is coercive control in your relationship and your partner won't accept that their behaviour is unacceptable and refuses to change, you may conclude that separation is the best option for you and for your children.

If you are experiencing coercive control then you should take legal advice about whether the best thing to protect you and your family is to secure an injunction order.

If you decide to start injunction proceedings the family court can be asked to either make a non-molestation or an occupation order. A non-molestation order protects you from coercive control or abusive behaviour. An occupation order allows you to stay at the family home until long term decision are made about whether the family home should be sold or transferred to you or to your partner.

Many people assume that they don’t meet the eligibility criteria to apply for an injunction order because they haven’t had to be hospitalised because of domestic violence. A specialist family law solicitor will tell you that domestic abuse isn’t just physical assaults but includes emotional and psychological abuse and coercive control.

Should I apply for a non-molestation order?

A non-molestation order stops your abusive partner from behaving in a coercive or controlling manner. Sometimes the threat of starting injunction proceedings will make your partner reflect on their behaviour and stop it. If the threat of injunction proceedings isn’t sufficient to stop the behaviour or there is an immediate risk, then injunction proceedings can be commenced.

A family law solicitor will support you through the non-molestation order court application process. To secure an injunction order you will need to make an application to court supported by a statement of evidence. There may then need to be one or two court hearings. In most cases, the abusive behaviour stops because of the making of the injunction order but, if it doesn’t, an application can be made to enforce the injunction order.

What next?

Family law solicitors emphasise that it is best to talk to your solicitor if you have experienced or are continuing to experience abusive behaviour or are being subjected to coercive control. Many people are reluctant to tell their family law solicitor about coercive control as they are too embarrassed to talk about the sort of behaviour that they have been subjected to. Whether or not you decide to apply for a non-molestation order it is best to speak with your family law solicitor about the coercive control and abusive behaviour that you have experienced. That way your solicitor can explore how best to support and protect you and make sure that any childcare arrangements and financial settlement meet your needs.

London family law solicitors

It can be hard to recognise that your partner exercises coercive control and even harder to do something about it. The family law team at OTS Solicitors understand that taking the decision to separate from a partner is never easy and can support you by providing the best legal advice on the options of applying for an injunction order,  resolving custody and contact arrangements and sorting out who gets to stay in the house and your financial settlement.

Whatever your family law problem the family law team at OTS Solicitors can help you. For expert legal advice call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or click here

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