Every woman has a right to safety and there are a number of rights and entitlements that can support a woman to access safety for herself and her children. However, the options you can avail of depend on a variety of conditions, so they are not universally accessible. These conditions include: whether you are an Irish or EU citizen, what your residency status is, what your marital status is, whether you are cohabiting with the abuser – and for how long. The following are some of the options you may wish to consider.
For your legal rights and entitlements we recommend you contact a solicitor or West Cork Women Against Violence or a domestic violence support service local to you. List of Domestic Violence Services in Ireland.
Under the Domestic Violence Act 1996 there are a number of protections available to women experiencing violence and abuse in the home. These include the following:
• Protection Order – a temporary order,
• Interim Barring Order – a temporary order,
• Barring Order – Up to 3 years
• Safety Order- Up to 5 years
Information on Barring and Safety orders
• Child Custody Orders
• Child Contact Orders
• Maintenance Order
• Legal Separation
Information on Guardianship Custody and Access
This is a temporary order intended to keep you safe in an emergency, until you can go into court for a longer term order, such as a Barring or Safety order.
Interim Barring Order
This is an emergency order, which is given if there is evidence of extreme risk for the victim. It means the perpetrator must leave the family home immediately, but there must be a court hearing for a Barring or Safety Order within 8 days of the issuing of an Interim Barring order.
A Barring order is an order which requires the violent person to leave the family home. It can last up to 3 years. To get a Barring order you must attend a court hearing. If you are married and your spouse is violent towards you or your children, you can get an order no matter how long you have lived together. If you are not married you can get a Barring order if you have been living together for 6 out of the previous 9 months.
A Safety order is an order which does not require the violent person to leave the family home. It can last up to 5 years. As with a Barring order, you must attend a court hearing and, if you are married, you can get an order no matter how long you have lived together. If you are not married you can get a Safety order if you have been living together for 6 out of the previous 12 months.
Child Custody Orders
Custody is the day to day care and control of the child and custody orders apply to children under the age of 18. You should apply for a custody order when you apply for a protection order. The judge decides which parent the child will live with. If you are not married to the father of your child it is important to note that an unmarried father does not have automatic guardianship rights. He must apply to the court to get these rights.
Child Contact Orders
Child contact is usually known as access. It is the right to see and communicate with a child. When you have custody of your child, the other parent will usually be given access, unless there is a proven risk to the child, and even then, supervised access may be given. Access can be arranged in different ways.
A maintenance order is designed to give financial support for you and your children. You do not have to be living apart or intending to separate. If your spouse/partner is unemployed, you can still apply for maintenance as a maintenance order may be important for applying for social welfare.
A legal separation is a written contract through which married couples agree to separate. It covers maintenance, custody of children, ownership and occupation of the family home. In a legal separation the spouses can decide the terms of separation rather than have the terms imposed by the court and usually a solicitor or mediator can help negotiate an agreement. However, when there has been domestic violence and abuse, it is unlikely that the perpetrator will be concerned about the best interests of the victim and negotiating a fair agreement will be difficult. In this case a judicial separation may be necessary and a judge decides on these issues.
To apply for a Barring or Safety Order you must go to your local District Court Office. If you need a Protection order or an Interim Barring order the District Court Judge will usually hear your case on the day you make the application for a Barring order or Safety order – Information on going to court. If you do not want a Protection order or an Interim Barring order immediately, you can seek one at any time before your case for a Barring or Safety order is heard.
Whether you live with an abusive person or not, you are entitled to protection under the law. Breach of court orders, threats to kill or cause serious harm, criminal damage, harassment, assault, assault causing harm, assault causing serious harm, rape, sexual assault, abduction of children and false imprisonment are crimes.
Private Solicitors tend to specialise in different areas of law, and while they will all have knowledge of family law, some will be more experienced than others. Before you decide to use the services of a private solicitor, it is worthwhile asking them about this and about the fees you are likely to pay.
To qualify for Legal Aid representation, (low cost) your income must be below a certain level. Contact them directly for up to date information – Legal Aid website. Once you qualify for Legal Aid, you can only be represented for the matter you applied for. You cannot add on another application later. As Protection, Barring, and Safety Orders are emergency orders, once you qualify for Legal Aid, you should be granted legal representation quickly. Custody, Access and Maintenance Orders are not deemed emergencies so you will go on a waiting list for a solicitor. Being granted representation for a Separation can take a year or more. If your partner is already a client of the Legal Aid office and there is only one in your area, they cannot also represent you, so you will have to apply to Legal Aid in another area. Free Legal advice is given by FLAC.
West Cork Women Against Violence Project may be able to accompany you to court. Please see our Court Accompaniment section for information on this.