Article updated August 2023
“My ex and I are currently going through an acrimonious divorce and I was alarmed to hear that she has now made false accusations of domestic abuse against me and applied for a non-molestation order. I have never been abusive to my ex. What are my options?”
Sadly, during the breakdown of a relationship it is sometimes the case that one spouse makes false allegations against the other. This can be for a variety of reasons: to gain a perceived advantage in a child contact dispute or a dispute in relation to financial matters or sometimes simply out of spite and a desire for revenge.
If you are accused of domestic abuse, it’s important to know that any allegations will be scrutinised by the court, and no judge will simply accept what your ex says without thoroughly investigating the claims.
If your ex-partner claims that they urgently need a non-molestation order, the court may grant a temporary order on a ‘without notice’ basis. This means that you will be given no prior notice of your ex’s court application before the court grants the injunction. However, you will be given the opportunity to attend a court hearing within (usually) seven days of the order being granted where you will have the opportunity to ask the court to dismiss the injunction.
The most important first step is to take advice from a solicitor who specialises in family law and has experience of dealing with allegations of domestic abuse in divorce. They will be able to asses all the facts and advise you on your options.
As your former-spouse has applied for a non-molestation order, she will have to provide a detailed statement setting out the allegations. You and your solicitor will review her statement. Your solicitor will then be able to prepare a statement in response and lay out your version. It is important to note that the purpose of the statement is to refute the allegations of domestic abuse made against you, and is not an opportunity to discuss the disagreements or issues of your relationship.
The document will be reviewed by the judge before you and your ex attend court so it is essential that it is properly put together by a specialist solicitor.
What are your options?
Once the response statement has been prepared, it will be sent to the court and a copy will also be sent to your ex-partner’s solicitor.
You then have two options:
Provide an Undertaking
You can agree to provide an ‘undertaking’, stating that you will not threaten, harass, intimidate, or provoke your ex. The wording of such an undertaking would mirror the wording in the non-molestation order.
An undertaking is a legally binding promise to the court and, if you breach the undertaking, you will be in contempt of court and there will be serious consequences.
You may ask why you should do this if you are not guilty of domestic abuse. Crucially, the undertaking is provided on the basis that there is no admission by you that your ex’s allegations are true.
The purpose of providing the undertaking is to avoid the stress and expense of a court hearing at which both you and your ex will have to give evidence and will be cross-examined by barristers about the alleged domestic violence. It is, in reality, a compromise solution.
As there are no admissions of domestic violence, the court has not found them to be true and your ex cannot rely on them in any other court proceedings.
Defend the allegations in court
You may wish to defend the allegations and ask the judge to make a ruling that the accusations are false. This would require you and your ex to attend court.
The judge will consider your written statements and listen to the oral evidence you provide in court. They will then decide whether some or all of the allegations are true or false.
This is of course a more “high-risk” strategy than providing an undertaking. Even if you believe the allegations are false, it may be the case that a judge does not agree with you having considered the evidence from both sides.
You risk being left with a ruling that you have committed domestic violence which could have a negative impact on any dispute regarding children or on financial issues arising from your separation.
How to conduct yourself
If you have had false accusations of domestic abuse raised against you, try to remain calm. Do not confront your ex-partner about the allegations and be extremely cautious when communicating with them. Outbursts, irresponsible or emotional texts, emails, or voice notes may be used to support claims that you are aggressive.
Focus on disproving the claims falsely made against you by evidencing and modelling your non-abusive character, rather than simply proving that your ex is lying. In some cases, your reaction to false claims may inadvertently lead the court to draw conclusions about your capacity for domestic abuse that are inconsistent with the truth.
What is domestic abuse?
Domestic abuse is a broad term that includes any incident or pattern of incidents of abusive behaviour. This can include:
- Coercive control
If you have been accused of domestic abuse in your divorce proceedings, we highly recommend that you seek specialist and professional advice from a family lawyer as soon as possible.
Get in touch
If you would like any advice about false accusations of domestic abuse please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist family lawyers.