Q: My friend has been subjected to abuse from her husband for years. The abuse is verbal and controlling rather than physical, so she is able to hide it. She won’t leave him because she is a stay at home mum with no money of her own and she believes that unless she actually divorces him and gets a share of their assets and maintenance she won’t be able to survive. In the meantime she can’t afford to go through the process of divorce. Surely there is something she can do?
A: On January 8th this year victims of domestic abuse were given greater hope of escaping their plight when the Ministry of Justice relaxed the evidence requirements for them to qualify for legal aid in divorce and child arrangement cases following separation. As domestic abuse includes psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional abuse, your friend should easily be able to demonstrate that she is a victim and apply for legal aid.
Following the January legislation changes there is now no longer a time limit on evidence to prove the abuse, which previously stood at five years. Additionally, the range of documents accepted as evidence has been widened to include statements from domestic violence support organisations and housing support officers.
The sooner your friend approaches an organisation that can confirm she is at risk of or is a victim of domestic abuse the better. Her GP can support and refer her to an appropriate agency, particularly if her mental health is suffering. In addition a reputable family lawyer will be able to advise her on the correct procedure for applying for legal aid. If she is being deprived of money by her husband that in itself could be classed as financial abuse.
(Published February 2018)