Your legal options
Domestic violence is a crime. If you are being subjected to violence in your own home, you can avail of legal protection through the courts. Women's Aid can help you through this process through our National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900, our one to one support service and court accompaniment service.
What orders can I apply for?
Under the Domestic Violence Act 1996 there are two different orders for which you can apply at the District Court which will provide protection.
- A Barring Order requires that the violent person leave the family home. It also prohibits the violent person from using or threatening to use violence against you and/or any dependent children. The court can direct the respondent not to attend at or in the vicinity of, or watch the place where the applicant and dependents reside.
- A Safety Order prohibits the abuser from further violence or threats of violence. It does not oblige the violent person to leave the family home. If the abusive person does not live with you, the Safety Order prohibits them from being in the vicinity of or watching your home.
How do I apply for orders?
- To apply for a barring order or a safety order you must go to your local District Court Office. You can find out where your local family district court sits online or by ringing 01 8886000.
- When you get to the District Court Office, the District Court Clerk will help you to fill out the correct form.
Do I need legal representation?
- You do not need legal representation for your initial application stage. But it is highly recommended that you have legal representation for full hearings.
What documentation do I need?
- For ex-parte cases (for a protection or interim barring order) you just need to attend in person. You will need to mention any evidence you have for the full hearing - this includes reports from GPs, hospitals or the Gardaí.
- You will need an address for the abuser/respondant.
- You must also bring proof of identity such as a passport or driver's license.
What happens next?
- When an application for either of the above orders has been accepted by the court, you will be given a date for a court hearing. The waiting time varies in different parts of the country.
- You will be given your summons for the court hearing at the time of your application. A summons will be sent to the respondent by ordinary post.
How am I protected in the meantime?
While you are waiting for a court hearing, the court may protect you with an order which lasts only until the date of the hearing. There are two ways the court can protect you while you wait for your hearing:
- Protection Order
- Interim Barring Order
The Protection Order can be granted if the court thinks there are reasonable grounds to believe your safety and welfare is at risk. The Protection Order has the same effect as the Safety Order, (but is only valid until the court hearing for the Safety/Barring Order takes place) whereby, the abusive person is prohibited from further violence or threats of violence, but is not required to leave the home.
If the court is of the view that a Protection Order would not be sufficient to protect you while you wait for your court date, then an Interim Barring Order is granted. The granting of an Interim Barring Order is based on the opinion of the court that there are reasonable grounds for believing that there is an immediate risk of significant harm to you.
The Interim Barring Order can be granted 'viva voce and on oath' and written evidence is not necessarily required. It is a temporary barring order (requiring the violent person to leave the home) which lasts until the full hearing for the barring order, but can last no longer than 8 working days. The orders are made on an ex parte basis (only one side is represented at the application).
If you do not want a protection order or an interim barring order immediately, you can seek one at any time before your case is heard for a barring or safety order.
What happens at full hearings?
- At the full hearing, you and the respondent (your partner) will be in court. You will give evidence and answer questions from the repondent's legal representative. The respondent will be allowed to respond and he can be cross-examined by your legal representative. It is always advisable to have legal representation at this hearing.
- When you get your barring order, safety order, protection order or interim barring order you show it to the Gardai in your local Garda Station. Do not give them your order (you must allow them to take a photocopy). A copy of your order will be sent to the Superintendent of your local Garda Station by post the following day.
When does the order come into effect?
- A safety order, barring order, interim barring order or protection order takes effect from the time the respondent is notified of the order. This can be done verbally, together with the production of a copy of the order.
- If the respondent is in court when the order is made the respondent is considered to be notified. A copy of the order will be sent to the respondent by ordinary post. In some cases, the Judge may direct the Gardai 'to serve' the order on the respondent. This means the Gardai will hand the order directly to the respondent.
What if an order is broken?
Who can avail of Protection through the Courts?
You are eligible to apply for the above orders if you belong to one of the following categories:
- Married Couples - a married person can apply for protection against violence by their spouse.
- Parents with a child in common.
- Cohabiting couples are now eligible for Safety orders without any minimum time requirement. To apply for a barring order, you must be living with your partner for 6 months out of the previous 9 months and have an equal or greater interest in the property.
- Same sex cohabitants couples are eligible for Safety and Barring orders in the same way as heterosexual cohabitant couples. (Note that civil partners are already eligible in the same way as spouses).
Who doesn't qualify for protection?
- Unfortunately there are gaps in current legislation which means that some women are not eligible protection under the Domestic Violence Act 1996.
- Women who are or were in dating relationship and who never lived with their boyfriends are not currently eligible for protection.
- Speak to the Women's Aid Helpline 1800 341 900 today to discuss your legal options.
Is there any other form of legal protection?
- Talk to Women's Aid about your legal options. If you are not eligible for protection under the Domestic Violence Act, you can contact the Gardai if you are subjected to an assault or are the victim of threatening behaviour. The Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997, for example means it a criminal offence to stalk or harass another person, so criminal charges may be brought against the abusive party.
- Women abused in dating relationships who are not cohabitating are currently unprotected by the Domestic Violence Act. It is Women's Aid's position that protection from domestic violence should not be contingent on current or previous cohabitation, and therefore Safety Orders should be available to all parties who are or have been in an intimate relationship, as is supported by UN guidelines on Domestic Violence Legislation.
What about divorce and separation?
- To talk to someone in more detail about divorce and separation in the context of domestic violence, please call the Women's Aid Helpline on 1800 341 900.
Who can help me through this process?
- Women's Aid can discuss your legal options with you. We also support women through the legal process with our Dublin-based one to one service and court accompaniment service. Call the National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for more information or find out how Women's Aid can help.