Warning letters

You can send a warning letter to tell someone to stop behaving in a certain way – and that if they don't, you'll take legal action against them.

You’re giving them a last chance to change before taking them to court.

You can get a solicitor to write and send a warning letter for you – and you might be able to get legal aid to help pay the cost.

Warning letters can be an inexpensive and effective way of stopping domestic abuse – but they’re not right for every situation.

Is it right for me to send a warning letter?

It’s not always safe to send a warning letter. You should not send one if:

  • it might put you or your family in danger

If you’re dealing with someone dangerous, you should contact the police or go straight to the courts and make an urgent application for a court order that stops their abusive behaviour. The person won’t be told about your application until the court gives you the protection you need.

  • there’s a risk of child abduction

If there’s a chance the warning letter will make it more likely the other parent will take your child abroad without your permission, you should ask the court for a prohibited steps order instead. The other parent won’t be told about it until it’s in place.

  • you don’t have a reliable home or email address for them

You have to be sure they receive the letter or it won’t be effective.

There could be other situations that wouldn’t be suitable for a warning letter, particularly if it only encourages the person to act in a way that’s harmful to you.

If you’re in any doubt about whether to send a warning letter, seek legal advice.

What can I ask for?

You can ask someone not to do something, such as to stop:

  • being abusive or threatening
  • contacting you or coming near you
  • writing comments about you online

Or you can ask them to do something, such as to:

  • pay support or child maintenance on time in full
  • leave the family home
  • stick to your child contact arrangements
  • agree that your child should go to a certain school

What shall I write?

When you write your letter or email, be clear, polite and to the point. Don’t invite debate about the points you’re making – you’re giving a warning, not starting a negotiation.

  • Set out what the problem is and what the impact on you has been.
  • Set out what the person should or shouldn’t do to make the situation better.
  • Explain that you want to avoid going to court but you will do so if they don’t comply.
  • Ask them to reply before a certain date.
  • Make it clear that if they don’t reply or agree by that date, you will take legal action against them.
  • If you’re not using a solicitor, use a safe address where they can reply to you. Do not give them your own address or contact details if it would put you in danger.

How do I send a warning letter?

It’s best to send your letter by tracked post and by email, ideally with delivery and read receipt mode enabled. Then you can show the court that your letter was delivered and received if you have to.

Keep a copy of your letter for your reference and for evidence.

What happens next?

Wait until the deadline date you gave the person to reply. Try to avoid contact with the person in the meantime.

If they don’t agree or reply, or they fail to meet the terms of your letter, then you can apply to court for an order.

You can include copies of your warning letter and any responses you received as evidence in your application.

This will show that you’ve tried everything to fix the situation before starting legal proceedings as a last resort.

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