Coercive control and family law
Aug 2022
Divorce & Family

Coercive control and family law

Athena Fernyhough
Paralegal, Divorce & Family

Media coverage of the ongoing trial of former Manchester United and Wales footballer, Ryan Giggs, has cast light on a form of domestic abuse that is often misunderstood – coercive and controlling behaviour. Ryan Giggs is charged with coercive and controlling behaviour against his ex-partner, Kate Greville, between August 2017 and November 2020.

What is coercive control?
Coercive and controlling behaviour, or ‘coercive control’, is defined as an act, or pattern of acts, of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish or frighten the victim.

Whilst many will recognise physical or verbal abuse, coercive control is often a more subtle form of domestic abuse. An abuser will use coercive and controlling behaviour in an attempt to make their partner dependent on them. The abuser’s coercive control often manifests itself in the following ways:

  • Isolating their partner from friends and family
  • Controlling where their partner goes, who they see and what they wear
  • Monitoring their partner’s phone usage
  • Controlling their partner’s finances
  • Sexual coercion
  • Making threats and intimidating their partner
  • Limiting their partner’s support from professionals

How does coercive control relate to family law?
Although coercive control is a crime under the Serious Crime Act 2015, it also plays an important part in family law.

A victim of coercive control may wish to apply to the court for a ‘Non-Molestation Order’, which offers the victim protection from the perpetrator. For example, the order may prohibit the perpetrator from contacting the victim. If the victim and perpetrator live together, the victim may also seek an ‘Occupation Order’, which can force the perpetrator to leave the property.

In cases where the parties have children together, upon separation they will need to make decisions about who their child will live with and how much time they will spend with each parent.

Perpetrators may continue to exert coercive control over the victim even after they have split up. For example, they may threaten to report the victim to Children’s Services if they do not do what they want. If children are exposed to this behaviour, then it could be harmful to them. Victims of coercive control may be concerned about how the perpetrator will parent and whether this will affect their child’s welfare. Victims may also worry that their children will be exposed to further coercive control if the perpetrator commences a new relationship.

How can we help?
Our experienced family team are happy to assist you with making an application for a Non-Molestation Order or Occupation Order. We can also provide advice relating to making arrangements when children are involved. Please contact a member of the team or call us on 0191 262 8231 to discuss how we can help.

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