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Home > News > What is Coercive & Controlling Behaviour?

What is Coercive & Controlling Behaviour?

26 February 2020 |

The latest episode in the new season of BBC drama ‘The Split’ featured a woman experiencing coercive and controlling behaviour by her husband. It’s not surprising that this has been explored on prime-time TV. This form of domestic abuse has been high on the media’s agenda since coercive or controlling behaviour became a criminal offence in December 2015.

The definition of coercive control is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim. Examples of this behaviour include isolating a person from friends and family, monitoring a person’s time, taking control over aspects of a person’s everyday life and repeatedly humiliating, degrading or dehuminising a person.

Separation & Divorce

The first step that a solicitor might advise is applying to the Court for a non-molestation Order which can protect you from such behavior. The term molestation is wide and can include financial, emotional, physical and sexual abuse.  A non-molestation Order can prevent a person from carrying out certain actions – for example not to harass, pester or intimidate someone.

Allegations of coercive and controlling behaviour are increasingly referred to in divorce proceedings. It may be used to demonstrate that a marriage has irretrievably broken down. However, in financial proceedings  the Court will only take conduct into account if it is so serious that to ignore it would be unfair.

It is therefore important for the person experiencing coercive and controlling behaviour to retain evidence that can be used to prove this in Court. This might include keeping a list or diary of events, noting if there are witnesses who may have observed or heard these events, also text messages and any contact with specialist support services. 

How can a family solicitor help?

Our team of friendly family solicitors have extensive experience in dealing with relationships that have broken down as a result of coercive and controlling behaviour. We will listen to your situation, set out where you stand legally and provide supportive, personal advice tailored to you.

If you would like to talk to a specialist family lawyer please call 0117 906 9400 or email   

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.

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