How can this law help me?
If you are married or living together as man and wife and there is violence or the threat of violence within the family you may apply to a magistrate for a domestic order to stop the violence.
What about children?
You can apply if the violence is against you or a child of the marriage including any child who has been treated by both of you as a child of the family.
Will this application stop the violence?
The magistrate can order the violence to stop. If the violence continues the person committing the violence (called the Respondent) may be fined or sent to prison.
How do I apply?
You should seek advice from:
- An Attorney or
- The Legal Befrienders at the Woman's Resource Centre (Elizabethan Square, George Town)
Can I apply by myself?
Yes. However the process can be complicated and the court staff cannot help you except to refer you to the correct forms. If you need assistance in completing the forms and drafting orders, contact the Legal Befrienders. You can also present your case to the magistrate by yourself.
Can I get legal aid?
No. Legal Aid in civil actions is only granted in the Grand Court. However you may be eligible for Legal Aid if you decide to start divorce proceedings and apply for a restraining order, as these are proceedings in the Grand Court. It is advisable that you consult an attorney for all Grand Court proceedings.
Where do I apply?
If you decide to issue the application yourself, you should go to the Civil Section in the Courthouse. The office hours are 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Assistance will be given to get emergency cases before the Court as quickly as possible.
What do I need to take with me?
You are advised to obtain a copy of the Law and the Summary Court Rules 1995 from the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly. The form of application (form 7) is set out in the rules and you will need 4 copies. It is advisable to have an affidavit to support your application. This may be sworn at the court office. The application must be served on the respondent. The court bailiff can do this.
What will it cost me?
If you consult an attorney, you will have to be responsible for paying his or her fees. The court fee for the application is $15. The bailiff's fee varies according to the district in which the summons is to be served. George Town is $30.
Can I serve the summons myself?
Yes. However the summons must be served on the respondent personally and you must take care this does not provoke further violence. You will also have to prepare and file an affidavit of service of the summons.
Can I apply for an order without serving a summons?
If you fear there may be a threat of violence in the near future you may apply for an interim order to be made in the absence of the respondent. If such an interim order is granted a further hearing date will be set and the respondent must be served with an order showing this new date of hearing. An interim order normally only lasts for 28 days.
What happens at the hearing?
The magistrate must be satisfied that your application is in order. He or she may ask questions of you or your attorney, and may adjourn the hearing to another day if further proof is required. If the respondent is in court he/she or an attorney may ask you questions. The interim hearing may be in chambers but the final hearing is usually in open court.
What order is the magistrate likely to make?
The magistrate may order:
- that the respondent must not use violence against you (or the children)
- that the respondent leave the matrimonial home
- a penal notice, so that imprisonment may result if the order is disobeyed
What happens if the respondent does not obey the order?
The police may arrest a respondent who appears to be in breach of an order under this Act. You may also apply for the court to fine or commit the respondent to prison for breach of the order.
For further information on the Domestic Violence Law you should consult an attorney or the Women's Resource Centre.
Last Updated: 2005-03-07