This week will be the first ever Post-Separation Abuse Awareness Week, to raise awareness about what is abuse and how it can continue beyond the end of a relationship. We believe that it is vital to understand that abuse doesn’t necessarily end with the termination of a relationship; in fact, it can escalate. Whilst divorce and separation may bring an end to the relationship physically, abuse can continue in a number of ways and cause harm to the victim long after the relationship is over.

Firstly it is important to understand what abuse is. The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 defines abuse as the perpetrator inflicting upon the victim, physical or sexual abuse; violent or threatening behaviour; controlling or coercive behaviour; economic abuse psychological, emotional or other abuse; and it does not matter whether the behaviour consists of a single incident or a course of conduct. In some cases being physically away from the abuser as a result of your divorce or separation may be enough to end the abuse.

However, psychological, verbal and emotional abuse can not only continue but heighten at the end of a relationship. This abuse is particularly pronounced when dealing with a narcissistic abuser. A narcissist heavily relies on a continuous stream of validation, which serves as a facade to the outside world. Letting go of anyone who provides this ‘supply’ is something they find incredibly difficult. They might even trade adoration for conflict if it means they can maintain contact.

This can present itself in divorce and separation whereby a narcissist may intentionally provoke emotional reactions from their ex-partner, exploiting their vulnerabilities or triggering feelings of guilt, anger, or sadness. They may also engage in a campaign to tarnish the ex-partner’s reputation by spreading false or damaging information about them to mutual acquaintances, family, or friends. Denigrating their ex-partner in front of their children is condemned by Family Courts and may be considered a form of abuse.

When children are involved, maintaining some level of contact is usually unavoidable, as children will have a right to relationships with both parents on the understanding that their safety is not compromised. Victims of abuse may find it difficult to manage this relationship whilst also protecting themselves from further abuse. An abuser may incessantly message the victim about seemingly innocent topics such as when to seek the child(ren), what time pick-up is, what did the child(ren) eat and etc. This is reflective of psychological or emotional abuse whereby the victim does not feel they can escape the abuser’s control and presence.

As a practitioner I approach this dynamic by seeking to limit the level of contact between my client and the abuser. I recommend that communication is conducted via ‘co-parent friendly’ apps or a physical contact book. This approach is constructive as it will help minimise direct interaction and limit the opportunity for verbal and psychological abuse. Messages cannot be deleted from such apps and therefore the abuser will have to remain accountable to Court for their actions.

I urge victims to ensure that they seek ongoing support if necessary, and to avoid engaging with the abuser if they can. At Hubbard Pegman and Whitney, treat clients with the upmost sensitivity and understanding and ensure that they are offered the right support and advice. If you are in need of a family lawyer, get in touch with us today. Currently, we are offering a free initial telephone consultation with our family team for new enquiries. During this call, we will tell you what we can do next to get started. Call us now for a friendly chat on 020 8735 9770 alternatively email our family law department at info@hpwsolicitors.co.uk


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