Divorce & Domestic Violence

On this page:

Divorce/ separation

Can I remain in the UK on my current visa?
I have a limited leave visa, can I apply for ILR?
What visa can I apply for?
Spouses with British children or children who have lived in the UK for 7 years or more
Will I be eligible for benefits if I am given a limited leave visa?
Should I be receiving child maintenance?
What support can my Local Authority provide?
What support can Service charities provide?
Where can I get other advice e.g. housing options?

Domestic Abuse

New guidance on domestic abuse for the Armed Forces community (Opens an external link)
First steps – what is domestic abuse and where can I go for help?
UKBA immigration rules – can I stay in the UK?
What if I am not eligible under the DV rules?
How do I apply?
What evidence do I need to apply?
Will I be eligible for public funds (benefits)?

Immigration advice

Further sources of help and advice



Can I remain in the UK on my current visa?

You are likely to have a visa as a dependant of a soldier, therefore your entitlement to remain in the UK is reliant on your relationship subsisting. Once you separate you are no longer meeting the terms of that visa and are required to either return to your home country or to apply for a visa in a different immigration category. 

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I have a limited leave visa can I apply for ILR?

No unfortunately once you are separated you no longer meet the requirements to apply for ILR. The rules require that your relationship is still subsisting and that you intend to continue living together.

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What visa can I apply for?

This will really depend on your personal circumstances.

  • You have a British child or a child who has been living in UK for 7 years continuously. You will be eligible to apply for limited leave to remain as a parent if you have sole responsibility or access rights to the child. You will either qualify on a 5 year route to settlement or a 10 year route. Neither route usually allow access to public funds (benefits). Click below for more information. 
  • Your marriage has broken down as a result of domestic violence. You may be eligible to apply for ILR under the domestic violence rules. See section below on Domestic Abuse. 
  • You have a valid limited leave visa and have lived in the UK for 10 years. You should be eligible to apply for ILR on the basis of your long residence. However you need have been living in the Uk for the whole of the 10 years, UKBA does not currently recognise your time overseas on accompanied assignments as residence in the UK. Click here for further information. 
  • You don’t have a valid visa but you have lived in the UK for 20 years or if under 25, have lived here for half of your life. You should be eligible to apply for leave to remain on the basis of your private life.  

If you don’t meet any of the above circumstances then you may find that your only option is to return to your home country. However there are other exceptional circumstances which may need to be taken into account.

Exceptional circumstances could include:

  • Best interest of the child
  • Length of time in the UK , including social, cultural and family ties
  • Likely circumstances you would face in your home country were you to return

You should contact the F&C Team in the first instance. We will assess whether we are able to offer further assistance or whether we will need to refer you to a solicitor or a more suitable agency. See below for information about further immigration advice.  

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Spouses with British children or children who have lived in the UK for 7 years or more

You may be eligible to apply for limited leave. If you are eligible, you will need to apply using form FLR(FP). Click here for a link to the form.

5 year route to settlement: you need to meet all of the requirements of the immigration rules. 

  • You have sole responsibility for the child or access rights to the child. If the child lives with the other parent then that parent must also be British or have ILR. You must provide evidence of your sole responsibility or that you take an active role in the child’s upbringing.
  • You must have a valid visa which was issued for more than 6 months
  • You must be able to adequately maintain and accommodation yourself and your child.
  • You must meet the English language requirement
  • You must meet the suitability requirements (i.e. you have no criminal convictions)

10 year route to settlement: you will need to meet the following requirements: 

  • You have sole responsibility or access rights to the child. If the child lives with the other parent then that parent must also be British or have ILR. You must provide evidence of your sole responsibility or that you take an active role in the child’s upbringing.
  • You must not be in the UK as a visitor or with leave granted for a period of 6 months or less. However the visa you have does not have to be valid.

Evidence required: 

You should provide as much evidence as possible to show that you meet the requirements of the rules. You should contact the F&C Team in the first instance.  

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Will I be eligible for benefits if I am given a limited leave visa?

Not usually. Limited leave visas are only issued with the condition of ‘no recourse to public funds’(NRPF) unless you can prove you are destitute or where there are compelling reasons relating to the welfare of a child. Having no recourse to public funds means that you can’t apply for child tax credits or child benefit as well as housing benefit and income support. A list of benefits that you are not eligible for can be found here.

Claiming destitution: If you are destitute you do not have adequate accommodation and/or you cannot meet your other essential living needs. You will need to provide evidence of the destitution (see the section on Local Authority support below) and will need to explain why you cannot work to support yourself and any children. You can claim destitution either before you apply for your limited leave or afterwards using the form here.

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Should I be receiving child maintenance?

Yes if you have children and they live with you most of the time then the soldier has a legal responsibility to support them. Click here to find out more information. If the soldier consistently fails to meet their financial responsibilities in respect of their children, the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC) may make a Deduction from Earnings Request (DER) against the serving person.  

If you are overseas and wish to enforce a Foreign Court Order to compel the soldier to make payments, you will firstly need to have the order registered in a UK court. This is done through the central authority (or local courts) in your home country and the UK REMO unit (Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders).  

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What support will my Local Authority (LA) give me?

To prove destitution you should first go to your Local Authority to ask for a ‘Child in Need’ and a ‘Human Rights Assessment’ to be conducted. Local authorities have a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in need within their jurisdiction.

Families with NRPF will usually be assessed to see if they are eligible to receive residential accommodation and subsistence under Section 17 if the Children Act 1989. However there are substantial restrictions on the support that can be provided under Section 17 CA to families that are unlawfully in the Uk. Support under the Children Act to such families can only be provided if it is assessed, in a Human Rights Assessment, that withholding or withdrawing this support would breach their human rights under the ECHR.

Furthermore LA assistance seems to vary greatly depending on where you live. If you don’t have children there is almost no support available - even a women’s refuge will refuse to take you. There is also often the presumption by the LA, that there will be support for you within the military community. You will probably need to fight your case, you should ask your welfare worker to assist in dealing with the authorities.

Further information on the duties of the Local Authority and the guidance used to assess eligibility for assistance can be found on the links below:



However just because you may be receiving Local Authority support does not mean that you will automatically qualify for benefits. The Home Office will still want to see all of the evidence and may still decide to refuse your destitution claim.

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What support can Service charities provide?

In some cases Royal British Legion (RBL) and SSAFA will provide small grants and vouchers to assist with day to day living, but this will very much be on a case specific basis and cannot be relied upon as a form of income. You should speak to your welfare worker so that an assessment can be made.

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Where can I get other advice e.g on housing options?

Click here for a guide produced by SSAFA which gives lots more information about other non-immigration aspects of divorce/relationship breakdown.

Housing – section 4 and 7 of the guide above details the process for remaining in your service families accommodation (SFA) and the housing options for you once you have to leave your SFA. These can include the Services Cotswold Centre or SSAFA stepping stone homes. You are still expected to pay for the accommodation but funding may be provided by Service charities depending on your specific circumstances. You should speak to your Welfare Worker for more information. 

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Domestic Abuse

First steps – what is domestic abuse and where can I go for help?

The Home Office defines domestic violence or abuse as:

Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass but is not limited to the following types of abuse:

  • psychological
  • physical
  • sexual
  • financial
  • emotional

Controlling behaviour is: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.

Coercive behaviour 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.”*

*This definition includes so called ‘honour’ based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage, and is clear that victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group

The Army has a policy of zero tolerance of domestic abuse and has procedures in place to provide confidential advice and support to those subjected to it. The Army Welfare Service (AWS) or SSAFA can be approached in the first instance, they will provide a caseworker who will listen and provide information. This is a confidential service; they will not speak to your partner’s unit unless you ask them to or unless there are child protection issues. They will need to make sure that you and any children you have are safe, and will work with other agencies to protect you and your family. If you don’t know how to contact your local AWS or SSAFA representative then call the AFF Central Office on 01264 382326

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UKBA immigration rules – can I stay in the UK?

Following a successful campaign by AFF, new Immigration rules introduced on 1st December 2013 now allow spouses who are victims of domestic violence to apply for ILR in the following circumstances:

  • You are in the UK and had/have a visa as the dependent of a serving soldier (either under new rules or old rules). The visa does not have to be valid at the time of the application.
  • The soldier must either be:
    A British Citizen or
    A foreign or Commonwealth citizen who has served for 4 years.
  • You must meet the suitability requirements which mainly relates to criminal convictions - see the 'Main requirements' section on the Visas page.
  • You must provide evidence that your relationship broke down permanently as a result of the domestic violence, during your period of limited leave.

Limited leave to remain for 30 months will be granted if you fail to qualify for ILR only because you don’t meet the suitability requirements.

Please contact the AFF F&C team before you make your application. 

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What if I am not eligible to apply under the DV rules?

If you are not eligible to apply under the DV rules because you

  • have never had a dependents visa or
  • the soldier has not served for 4 years or
  • the marriage did not break down as a result of the domestic violence, then you will have to read the guidance in the ‘Divorce/Separation’ section to see if you are able to remain in the UK in another category of the rules.

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How do I apply?

You need to apply using form SET(DV). All information on applying and suggested supporting documents can be found on the UKBA webpage.

There is also further information at the following link: www.gov.uk/government/publications/victims-of-domestic-violence 

If you can show that you are destitute you do not have to pay the fee. However you will need evidence of your destitution. The guidance states:

You do not need to pay the fee if you can show that you are destitute.

Anyone claiming to be destitute for the purposes of being exempt from the fee must provide evidence to show that, on the date of making the application, they have:

  • No access to sufficient funds to pay the application fee; and they are
  • Totally and necessarily reliant on a third party for the provision of essential living costs, such as basic accommodation and food.

If you are claiming to be destitute, you must provide evidence to prove this. Satisfactory evidence could, for example, be a signed letter from a local authority or agency supporting you. The letter must confirm that your circumstances have been assessed and that you have been deemed to be destitute and are therefore unable to pay the application fee. Also, if you are being housed in other temporary accommodation, for example living with family or friends, a detailed statement should be provided detailing your living and support arrangements. Unless you provide satisfactory evidence, your claim to be destitute will not be accepted and your application will be rejected as invalid. 

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What evidence do I need to provide?

You should submit as much information and evidence as possible to support your application. The type of evidence required is listed below but it is important that you provide as much as you can to avoid any delay in considering your application. This evidence may relate to one incident or a number of incidents. In general an applicant who submitted only one piece of evidence would not usually be considered to have proven their case.

Documents provided with the application must be originals. Copies of any kind are not acceptable unless there are valid reasons for not being able to provide the original document. In such circumstances, we may accept a copy certified by the body or authority that issued the original (for example, a copy of a savings book certified by the building society or bank), or by a notary. The reasons for not being able to provide the original document must be explained in a covering letter. 

Suggested supporting documents 
Below are some examples of documentary evidence you can use to support your application. This list however is not exhaustive:

  • A letter or other document showing that a Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) has been convened on your behalf
  • Non-Molestation Order or other protection order against the person(s) who committed the violence. This must be a final order, not an interim or ex-parte order
  • A medical report from a hospital doctor or GMC registered family practitioner (GP) who has examined you confirming that your injuries are consistent with being a victim of domestic violence. The report must include the doctor's GMC Registration Number and must provide the date you first registered, the dates of your visits in which domestic violence was reported, and an extract from the record of these details.
  • An undertaking given to a court that the person(s) who committed the violence will not approach you.
  • A police report confirming that, because of a domestic violence incident, they attended the address at which the incident(s) took place. A copy of the incident log must be provided. It must show the address(es) at which the incident(s) took place.
  • A letter from a social services department confirming its involvement in connection with domestic violence committed against you.
  • A letter of support or a report from a domestic violence support organisation/refuge.
  • Other documentary evidence showing that you have been the victim of domestic violence.

* witness statements from friends or family and letters from official sources that relay unfounded reports by the applicant but do not confirm the incident will be treated with caution by the caseworker. This type of evidence must be verified where possible and treated as additional evidence.

Further information on documentary evidence can also be found at page 24 – 27 in the guidance at the following link www.gov.uk/government/publications/victims-of-domestic-violence 

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Will I be eligible for public funds (benefits)?

Spouses are also now able to apply to access public funds for 3 months if you do not have the means to access accommodation or to support yourself and need financial help while you make your claim for indefinite leave to remain as a victim of domestic violence. Click here for the form you need to complete.

Once you are granted ILR you are eligible to apply for benefits. 

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Immigration advice

Applications made for ILR as a victim of Domestic Violence, or those made under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, should ideally not be attempted without qualified immigration advice. The F&C Specialist is a qualified advisor and is able to advise on applications within the rules but she is unable to assist if the case requires an application to be made outside the rules. The case can be referred to a solicitor/immigration advisor on your behalf or you can use the links below to find a suitable advisor. 

Finding an advisor and Legal Aid: As a result of the new Legal Aid rules which came into effect on 1st April 2013, legal aid is only usually available for applications for leave to remain under the DV rules. However some organisations such as the Citizen Advice Bureau, Law Centres do provide free advice.




What will the immigration adviser do?: A good immigration adviser will begin by assessing the merits of your case. If they consider that your chances of being able to remain in the UK are very slim, then they should inform you of this. If you decide to go ahead with an application then your immigration adviser should assist with the following: 

  • A detailed statement: This provides the opportunity for you to put the facts of your case to the decision maker (the UKBA caseworker). Your immigration adviser should draft this statement using the information you have given them. It should tell your story in a compelling and persuasive way so that the caseworker will be convinced of the merits of the case.
  • Supporting documents: Your immigration adviser should give advice on the evidence that needs to be provided with your application. The facts that you put in the statement above will need to be corroborated by other types of evidence, usually documents such as bank statements, photos, bills, letters, and reports - medical or other expert reports. A UKBA decision maker is not required to accept the facts in the statement if they can reasonably be expected to be supported by other evidence.
  • Letter of representation: The adviser should also prepare a letter in which they give the legal argument for your right to remain in the UK. They will refer to immigration rules where appropriate or to other, similar, cases where judges have ruled in favour of a right to remain.

What happens if my application is refused? If you are given the right to appeal then your adviser should discuss the merits of this with you. They should take you through the process and the timescales. You will only have ten days following receipt of your refusal notice (Notice of Decision) to lodge the appeal. On average, it takes six months for an appeal to be heard at the immigration tribunal. Appeals can be very expensive and are not covered by Legal Aid. 

Complaints about immigration advisers: If you think your immigration adviser has given you poor advice or an inadequate service, you can complain to the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC). You can complain about any adviser, solicitor, barrister, OISC regulated adviser or unregulated person operating within the UK and providing advice and services relating to immigration to the UK

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Further sources of help and information

Southall Black Sisters - a not-for-profit, secular and inclusive organization. It was established in 1979 to meet the needs of Black (Asian and African-Caribbean) women. Their aims are to highlight and challenge all forms of gender related violence against women, empower them to gain more control over their lives, live without fear of violence and assert their human rights to justice, equality and freedom. Their site includes lots of useful information: www.southallblacksisters.org.uk 

Rights of Women - a women’s voluntary organisation committed to informing, educating and empowering women concerning their legal rights. www.rightsofwomen.org.uk 

Men’s Advice Line – confidential Helpline for male victims of Domestic Violence. Call 0808 801 0327.

Army Welfare Service - AWS deals with around 400 cases of Domestic abuse every year and is the Army’s main provider of specialist welfare support. There are teams based across the UK, in Germany and BATUS. Call 0800 032 6443 or 01980 615 975 email LF-AWS-Welfareinformationservice@mod.uk 

SSAFA Forces Help - call 0845 1300 975 or visit www.ssafa.org.uk. Among the many services SSAFA provides are: 

  • Forcesline - free confidential support service available between 10.30am and 7.30pm, Monday to Friday. Call: From the UK 0800 731 4880. From Germany 0800 1827 395. From Cyprus 800 91065. From the Falkland Islands # 6111. From anywhere else in the world (call-back) +44 (0) 1980 630 854.
  • Stepping Stone Homes – short stay accommodation for separated women, with or without children, who are serving, ex-Service or dependants.

The National Domestic Violence Helpline - call 0808 200 0247 or visit www.womensaid.org.uk 

Women’s Aid: Click here then click on BAMER issues for information about those with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF). 

The Sojourner Projectwww.eaves4women.co.uk 

Veterans Aid - www.veterans-aid.net 

Royal British Legionwww.britishlegion.org.uk 

Scottish Women's Aid - www.scottishwomensaid.co.uk 

Welsh Women's Aid - www.welshwomensaid.org or call 0808 80 10 800


Solutions Relationship Counselling (in Cyprus) - 2596 3318

Refuge - call 0808 2000 247 or visit www.refuge.org.uk 

Relate - www.relate.org.uk

The Samaritans - www.samaritans.org.uk or www.befrienders.org 

Victim Support - call 0845 30 30 900 or visit www.victimsupport.org

Speak to your unit’s UWO and/or Padre

In an emergency always call the police


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