Domestic abuse - going to court

You can take legal action to stop your partner coming near you or entering your home.

This can take time. If you are immediately at risk, you should get help in an emergency.

Get help with domestic abuse

You can speak to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline at any time on 0800 027 1234.

They have a web chat option if you don't want to speak on the phone.

If you are threatened or attacked, call 999 and ask for the police.

Police action against an abusive partner

Domestic abuse is a crime. It is any behaviour by a partner or ex-partner that causes you mental or physical harm.

You can report an abusive partner to the police.

If the police charge them with an offence, they can be tried in court and may be sentenced to prison. If they do not receive a prison sentence they can have restrictions put on them through a non-harassment order.

This could order them to stop coming near you or your children or attempting to contact you.

If you are threatened or attacked in your home, call 999 and ask the police to come and help you.

Otherwise you can contact your local police station and ask to report a crime. The police should investigate any allegation of domestic abuse.

Court action against an abusive partner

The police can take action to prosecute someone who has behaved abusively. If the police do not charge the person abusing you, you can take action in court to keep an abusive person away from you and your home.

You will need to speak to a family law solicitor to go to court. They can help you decide what action to take.

Get legal help

Find a solicitor from the Law Society of Scotland or the Scottish Legal Aid Board.

Get legal help for free or at a lower cost from a law centre.

Getting a court order

A court order can be used to make decisions about your home, such as:

  • who will pay the rent or mortgage

  • who has a right to occupy the home

  • how a partner can behave towards you

You must have a right to occupy the home to apply for a court order, either by:

  • being married or in civil partnership,

  • being a tenant or joint tenant,

  • being an owner or joint owner of the home, or

  • having occupancy rights granted in court

Getting occupancy rights give you the same rights and responsibilities as a tenant or owner. It means that:

  • you have the right to continue living in the home if the tenant or owner moves out

  • you cannot be evicted without a court order

  • you have the right to defend any eviction in court

  • you have the right and responsibility to pay the rent or mortgage

Occupancy Rights

If you have no legal right to occupy the home but want to remain there, you can apply for occupancy rights in court.

These can last up to six months.

Applying for occupancy rights can protect you from being evicted.

It can also give you the time to make other arrangements, such as:

  • getting the tenancy in your name

  • getting an owned property transferred to you

  • finding somewhere else to live if you decide to move out

You will need to speak to a family law solicitor to apply for occupancy rights in court.

To find a family law solicitor, search on the Law Society of Scotland or the Scottish Legal Aid Board websites.

There may be law centres in your area who can also help. Law centres can help with legal advice and representation.

Interdicts to restrict someone’s behaviour


You can use an interdict if you need to protect yourself or your children from someone. An interdict is issued in court and tells a person what they can or cannot do.

If a person breaks the order, they can receive a fine or a prison sentence, depending on the terms of the interdict.

You can apply for an interdict against:

  • a spouse or civil partner

  • someone you live with


You can apply for an interdict banning a person from:

  • coming within a certain distance of your home, work or child’s school

  • doing anything to frighten, alarm or distress you or your children


You may need a right to occupy the home to apply for an interdict, either by:

  • being married or in civil partnership,

  • being a tenant or joint tenant,

  • being an owner or joint owner of the home, or

  • having occupancy rights granted in court

An interdict will not be granted without a court hearing. The person accused must have a chance to defend themselves.

You can ask the court for an interim interdict. This can give you temporary protection, while you are waiting for your case to be heard.

Non-harassment order

If you need to stop someone harassing you, you can apply for a non-harassment order. This is sometimes referred to as a restraining order.

The person harassing you could face arrest, imprisonment or a fine if they break an order.

Harassment is something that causes you alarm or distress. Whatever the person is doing, it has to have happened more than once.

You can apply for a non-harassment order if:

  • the person’s behaviour has happened on at least two occasions, and

  • you need protection from them

A non-harassment order will not be granted without a court hearing. The person accused of harassment must have a chance to defend themselves.

You can ask the court for an interim order. This can give you temporary protection while you are waiting for your case to be heard.

Exclusion order

You can apply for an exclusion order to stop someone coming to your home.

An exclusion order can last up until the end of a marriage or civil partnership. It will expire if you both end the tenancy or sell the home.

It will last up to six months if you are not married or in a civil partnership.

To apply for this you must have a right to occupy the home, either by being:

  • being married or in civil partnership

  • being a tenant or joint tenant

  • being an owner or joint owner of the home or

  • having occupancy rights granted in court

You can apply for an exclusion order while you are still in your home or staying somewhere else temporarily.

An exclusion order will not be granted without a court hearing. The person accused must have a chance to defend themselves.

You can ask the court for an interim exclusion order. This will give you temporary protection, while you are waiting for your case to be heard.

Getting legal representation at court

A family law solicitor can help decide what action to take against an abusive partner. They can help you apply to court.

Get legal help

Find a solicitor from the Law Society of Scotland or the Scottish Legal Aid Board.

Get legal help for free or at a lower cost from a law centre.

Paying for a solicitor or court costs

Legal action can be expensive. You may be entitled to some financial help. This is called legal aid.

You can check if you qualify for this on the Scottish Legal Aid Board website or by asking your solicitor.

Last updated: 28 June 2021

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