The Silent Crisis: Domestic Abuse Knows No Holiday Season

As the festive season approaches and the world gears up for relaxation and Christmas cheer, it’s important to remember that for many individuals, domestic abuse doesn’t take a holiday break. In a recent article by Niamh Campbell in Belfast Telegraph, workers and volunteers at Women’s Aid emphasised that “domestic abuse is every day of the year.” While December is traditionally known for its challenging and busy period for domestic abuse calls, Sonya McMullan, the regional services manager at Women’s Aid, highlights that the aftermath of the holidays can be an even more difficult time.

During the holiday season, many women choose to endure abusive situations for the sake of their families, particularly their children. They try to keep it all together, presenting a facade of holiday happiness, but the reality behind closed doors can be far from cheerful. Sonya McMullan notes that Women’s Aid has seen a clear pattern in their work – calls for help increase after Christmas, and referrals into their services surge as well.

This increase in domestic abuse incidents after the holiday season is a stark reminder that while advertisements depict Christmas as a joyful time, there are countless women living in homes filled with coercive control and various forms of abuse, including physical, financial, and economic abuse. Moreover, the ongoing cost of living crisis compounds these difficulties, creating a challenging environment for those already living in abusive situations.

The extended period that families spend together during the holidays can also exacerbate abusive situations. When people are forced to be in close quarters for a prolonged period, tensions can escalate, leading to more instances of domestic abuse.

It’s a tragic reality that women and children find themselves seeking refuge on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day. Sonya McMullan shares a poignant incident that occurred in Co Armagh on Christmas Eve, years ago. A woman in a high-risk situation, who had experienced physical injuries due to her abusive partner, had one concern in the midst of the crisis – getting her children’s Christmas presents to the refuge. Despite the emergency services being involved and her own injuries, she only cared about ensuring her children would wake up to Christmas presents. This heart-wrenching story highlights the lengths to which women go to protect their children, even in the most dire circumstances.

The article also provides a sobering statistic – there were 33,210 domestic abuse incidents in Northern Ireland in the 12-month period leading up to the end of June. Furthermore, 161 incidents were reported to the police on New Year’s Day 2022 alone. These numbers underscore the gravity of the issue and the urgent need for support and intervention in domestic abuse cases.

While the holiday season is a time of joy and celebration for many, it’s crucial to remember that domestic abuse does not adhere to a calendar. The stories and statistics presented in this article by Niamh Campbell, with insights from Sonya McMullan of Women’s Aid, serve as a stark reminder that we must be vigilant and supportive year-round. Domestic abuse is an ongoing crisis that requires continuous efforts to provide help and resources to those who need it. If you or someone you know has been affected by domestic abuse or coercive control, reaching out to organizations like Women’s Aid is a crucial step towards safety and support.


Key Qualities in a Divorce Solicitor

When a couple decide that they no longer wish to be in a marriage or are in the process of getting a divorce, it is extremely important to pick the right person to represent you.  Here is a list of the key qualities to look for:

  • No doubt this will be one of the most stressful and emotionally difficult times in your life, which often takes months if not years to resolve.  When you are deciding on a divorce solicitor it is really important that you feel comfortable with and have confidence in your legal representative, after all this is the person you will be dealing with for some time to come.
  • During divorce proceedings you will encounter many complicated matters to include financial matters, and to include your properties and pension shares and savings.  Perhaps you own a business together, your spouse may have a higher income than you and you may wish to seek assistance by way of maintenance.  You may not know anything about your spouses assets and need guidance as to where to start the process.  You may require advice in relation to the children and in relation to who sees the children and when and indeed with whom the children reside.  

A good divorce solicitor will be able to fully guide and assist you and help you navigate throughout this challenging situation in which you find yourself, providing you with assistance in relation to your legal rights and your entitlements.

  • In our experience our clients present us with their ideal scenarios or wish list and basically their expectations.  Sometimes these situations require to be managed carefully.  Your solicitor should be able to provide you with empathy and sympathy.  Your solicitor should act as the voice of reason in discussing with you initially as to how realistic these goals can be and how achievable they are.  As experienced solicitor will greatly assist you in navigating the pitfalls and providing you with good legal advice, which ultimately will avoid protracted court proceedings and the legal costs which follow.  
  • Being able to communicate with your solicitor from the outset is vitally important – someone who can communicate with you effectively and can explain the legal jargon and the various stages and processes involved during the proceedings, which will assist you greatly in making your own decisions.  Obviously a good communicator is one facet which requires to be considered.  

Another skill required of your solicitor is the ability to negotiate, as the solicitors role is to act in your best interests and negotiate a good settlement in your favour.  Children have to be considered in this situation, whether they are minors or grown up, it is always best to try and resolve matters of divorce as quickly and efficiently as possible, thereby reducing as much stress as possible.  Therefore a solicitor with the ability to communicate, negotiate and mediate in your best interests is extremely important.

  • Costs – obviously costs are huge issue firmly at the forefront of your mind when you are undertaking your research in respect of your family solicitor.  As with every other profession there are costs involved in relation to providing legal advice and in relation to pursuing court proceedings.  It is therefore extremely important that you instruct a solicitor who is very clear in relation to the issue of costs and guide you through the processes, advising you at all times in relation to whether the proceedings are costly or cost effective.  

Finally choosing your solicitor carefully will pay off in the long run and can make all the difference in assisting you in navigating your way through difficult procedures and difficult processes in order to achieve what is regarded as the best outcome for yourself and your family.

When a relationship ends

Upon separation an option for parties is to start negotiations with a view to dealing with important matters such as,

  • Who will occupy the matrimonial home?
  • How to divide up the matrimonial assets,
    which may include, properties, incomes,
    savings, policies, pensions, claims,
    inherited assets?
  • Dividing debt
  • Maintenance
    If the parties are not willing to enter into discussions, then an agreement cannot be reached. It is therefore important that if an agreement is to be reached that each party has their own separate independent legal representation.

What is the advantage of a matrimonial agreement?
The advantage of reaching a matrimonial agreement is to allow the parties to approach the settlement of their affairs on an agreed basis, as opposed to issuing court proceedings and proceeding on a contentious or litigious basis.

When will a matrimonial agreement not be binding?
A matrimonial agreement will not be binding unless each party receives proper independent legal advice as to the nature and extent of their entitlement and obligations.

When can a matrimonial agreement be set aside by the Court?
If either party does not make full and frank disclosure of all of their assets to the
other party in the context of the financial negotiations, then any matrimonial agreement which has been signed has the potential of being set aside by a court. It is therefore extremely important that prior to drafting a matrimonial agreement that full and frank disclosure / exchange of all financial information must take place in order that both parties can be fully informed about the nature and extent of their entitlement before either party can enter into a matrimonial agreement.

What type of discovery is normally required to be exchanged?

  • Property valuations
  • Mortgage redemption statements
  • Bank / building society statements for the past
    12 months
  • Wages slips for the past 12 months
  • P60 for the past 12 months
  • Details of life policies / ISA’s / stocks and shares
  • Loan accounts / compensation claims /
    inheritances which have been received or are
    about to be received during the period of the
  • Pension information to include an up to date
    statement of the pension i.e. a Cash
    Equivalent Transfer Value (CETV)

What happens if negotiations are successful, and an agreement is reached?
At this point, the Solicitors would draft an agreement for each party to approve an ultimately each party would sign the agreement in the presence of their legal representative who witnesses their signature; this process is called swearing a document. As long as each party is of sound mind and full disclosure has been made prior to the signing of the agreement and the discovery process
has been completed then the matrimonial agreement is of huge legal and financial significance. The matrimonial agreement is recognised as a contract and will become enforceable upon the application of either party to the marriage to have the agreement made a rule of court, generally at the stage of the Decree Nisi hearing of the divorce. By going down the route of a matrimonial
agreement, this can remove a huge amount of uncertainty and anxiety for the parties and
allows them to deal with the marriage breakup in a conciliatory way.

If you have a legal query in relation to the above, then please do not hesitate to contact Michelle Crilly Family Law Solicitors on 028 3833 4020 or email

Hollywood Star Liam Neeson Supports Groundbreaking Mental Health Initiative in Northern Ireland

In an inspiring display of support for mental health and wellbeing in Northern Ireland, Hollywood icon Liam Neeson is championing a remarkable initiative poised to revolutionise the landscape of mental health support. Through a heartfelt video message, Ballymena’s very own legend, Liam Neeson, is encouraging the people of Northern Ireland to embark on a courageous journey toward a brighter and healthier future. Whether it’s your mental or physical wellbeing that requires assistance, there is a dedicated platform ready to lend a helping hand –

Renowned for his cinematic brilliance and renowned across the globe, Liam Neeson has taken a momentous step away from the silver screen to address an issue of paramount importance – mental health and wellbeing. In a heartfelt video message, the celebrated actor shares his unwavering support for a groundbreaking initiative that promises to transform the way individuals in Northern Ireland access essential mental health and wellbeing support.

With Liam Neeson’s support, this platform is set to become a beacon of hope for individuals seeking assistance with their mental and physical wellbeing. It offers a user-friendly gateway to access vital resources, connect with support networks, and embark on a path toward holistic health and wellness. Whether it’s seeking counselling, therapy, or simply understanding the available resources, is a comprehensive and easily accessible solution. 

Getting a Divorce

Thinking about getting a divorce can be an extremely stressful time and it is often difficult to know where to turn for advice. It is natural to feel confused and anxious; after all a marriage is supposed to be a lifelong commitment.

Michelle Crilly is a “Local Women” legal columnist and family law solicitor. Read the full article below where Michelle advises on getting a divorce in Northern Ireland.

Michelle Crilly article on divorce in Northern Ireland

Digital Technology Can Help Families Living Apart

Digital technology is helping families living apart keep a line of communication open where one parent is shielding or self isolating. Never has my article, written for NI4kids, been more relevant than during these unprecedented times.

As most children and young people today have access to some form of digital device such as iPad, tablets and mobile phones, facetime and skype have become a means of keeping in touch when direct contact is not viable.

In fact, this situation is working very well for many families and avoids a situation whereby the children suffer disappointment when that parent cannot be present for their contact arrangements. Certainly, facetime and skype is a great help in affording children the ability to get in touch and gives them some control, in a situation which was unfortunately beyond their control.

Just a simple “hello” and “goodnight” to an absent parent can be enough to maintain the link and retain the bond between children and their absent parent.

This also applies to other family members such as grandparents, to allow them to keep in regular contact also.


“I was extremely pleased that my case was carried out in a completely professional and efficient manner and throughout my case, I was treated with consideration and my Solicitor was particularly personable and friendly towards me”. - Anonymous
Michelle Crilly Family Law
“I was extremely pleased that my case was carried out in a completely professional and efficient manner and throughout my case, I was treated with consideration and my Solicitor was particularly personable and friendly towards me”. - Anonymous

“We were extremely satisfied with your service and you kept us informed every step of the way during our case. Everything was dealt with efficiently and professionally. We would recommend this firm and thank you for all of your help throughout the case” - Anonymous
Michelle Crilly Family Law
“We were extremely satisfied with your service and you kept us informed every step of the way during our case. Everything was dealt with efficiently and professionally. We would recommend this firm and thank you for all of your help throughout the case” - Anonymous
Michelle Crilly Family Law
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Family Law Solicitor Portadown, contact us today on 028 3833 4020 or 028 3839 2132

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