A separate civil remedy for “Domestic Violence” was introduced into Irish Law in 1976 by the Family Law (Maintenance of Spouses and Children) Act 1976. The main advantage of this remedy is that the proceedings are held “in camera” which is a legal term meaning “in private”. Prior to the introduction of this Act, many spouses were reluctant to bring proceedings to Court through the criminal law system due to the public nature of proceedings.
The Domestic Violence Act 1996 as amended by the Family Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1997 and by the Domestic Violence (Amendment) Act, 2002 extended the protection from being an exclusively spousal remedy to a remedy available to those suffering from physical, sexual, emotional or mental abuse in a relationship which may or may not be based on marriage or co-habitation. The Safety and Welfare of the Victim, which includes the physical and psychological welfare of the victim must be at risk due the behaviour of the other person in the domestic relationship. The remedies available to the victim include the following:
- Barring Order.
- Interim Barring Order.
- Protection Order.
- Safety Order.
Application for remedies under the Domestic Violence Act, 1996 (as amended) can be made in the District Court and the Circuit Court can deal with these issues as part of overall proceedings by way of interim application.
A Barring Order, if granted by the Court, protects the victim of domestic violence by allowing them to occupy a residence to the exclusion of the violent or abusive party and by prohibiting that abusive party from entering such residence until a further Order is made by the Court or until such as the Court specifies. The Order may also, if the Court thinks fit, prohibit the Respondent from:
(a) Using or threatening to use violence against the Applicant or any dependent person;
(b) Molesting or putting in fear the Applicant or any dependent person;
(c) Attending at or in the vicinity of, or watching or besetting a place where the Applicant or any dependent person resides.
The Court, when considering the Application for a Barring Order, must be of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the safety and welfare of the Applicant or any dependent person requires the making of such an Order.
Interim Barring Order
The 1996 Act empowered the District Court to make an Interim Barring Order at the date of the institution of proceedings or at a date in between the institution of proceedings and their Hearing. In exceptional cases, where there is an immediate risk of significant harm to the Applicant or any dependent person, then an Interim Barring Order may be made “ex parte”. An “ex parte” decision is one, which is decided by a Judge without requiring all of the parties to be present and may be brought by the Applicant in the absence of and without representation or notification to the other party.
A Protection Order has the effect of ordering an abusive partner not to use violence or threaten to use violence against, molest or put in fear the Applicant or any dependent person and if the parties do not reside together, then the abusive party should not watch or beset the place where the Applicant or dependent person resides.
Protection Orders are available to persons who have commenced proceedings for a Barring Order or a Safety Order and will last only until the determination by the Court of the Application for one of the other remedy as mentioned above.
If the parties reside together, it does not require the abusive party to vacate the family home.
The 1996 Act introduced the remedy of a Safety Order. A Safety Order does not require the abusive party to vacate the residence and is, in effect, the same as a long term “Protection Order”.
A Safety Order prohibits the abusive party from using or threatening to use violence against, molesting or putting in fear the Applicant or a dependent person and if the parties do not reside together, then the abusive party will be inhibited from watching or besetting the place where the Applicant or dependent person resides.
If you have any queries in relation to any family law matter please do not hesitate to contact us here at Fiona Foley & Co., Solicitors where we will deal with your queries in a professional, efficient and sympathetic manner