A certain number of individuals (men and women) suffer in their couples or their families from such tensions that cohabitation becomes difficult and that it is likely for differences to escalate and transform into physical abuse.

As necessary as confinement is for public health, does it appear as a factor increasing tensions within the couple, likely to lead to an increase in domestic violence and more generally in divorce applications?

May 4th, 2020

A numerical overview:

According to STATEC data, from 2016 to 2018 the divorce rate remained stable around 63% in Luxembourg. However, it rose in 2019 to a significant figure of 98%, so that out of 10 marriages celebrated in one year, there are the equivalent of 10 divorces pronounced the same year.

Victim support organizations have recently noted that cases of domestic violence tend to increase in situations such as the health crisis, so that there is reason to worry about a corresponding increase in measures of expulsion as well as a rise in marital conflicts favouring the dissolution of marriage.

Practical findings:

During the confinement period, the Law Firm Real Avocats à la Cour did indeed observe a relative increase in domestic violence leading to expulsion measures, but also an increase in divorce petitions.

In this health crisis, it should be noted that social differences and inequalities have increased and that in particular disadvantaged families, who are confined in small apartments, where several people live, are in a situation very different from that of families who coexist in spacious houses with gardens.

Thus, if for some, marriage was already in crisis before quarantine, the restrictive pandemic measures undoubtedly accentuated the decision to dissolve marriage, while, for others, the health crisis contributed to the increase of conflict existing within the couple.

Brief overview of the current procedure in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg in matters of domestic violence: 

The amended law of 8 September 2003 on domestic violence (hereinafter “the Law”) created a framework for the protection of victims of domestic violence throughout the country and a Cooperation Committee for professionals in the field of the fight against violence, responsible for providing an annual report to the Government on the matter. 

In accordance with the law, within the framework of their missions of crime prevention and protection of persons, the police, with the authorization of the State prosecutor, can evict from their home and its dependences, the persons against whom there are indications that they are preparing to commit with respect to a person with whom they cohabit in a family environment, an offense against life or physical integrity, or that they are preparing to commit such acts again with regard to a person who had already fallen a victim to domestic violence by the same author.

 As a result of this expulsion, the perpetrator no longer has the right to enter the home and its dependencies, to make contact with the protected person, orally, in writing or through a proxy, nor does the perpetrator have the right to approach them. It is for the police to verify compliance with these prohibitions.  

The expulsion measure, initially ordered, automatically ends at 5:00 p.m. on the 14th day following that of its entry into force, unless the protected person has filed, within this period, a request for extension according to the formalities provided for in the Article 1017-2 of the New Code of Civil Procedure. 

Under Article 1017-1 (1) of the New Code of Civil Procedure, the protected person has the possibility, by simple request, to ask the president of the District Court to pronounce against the author a ban to return home for a maximum period of three months following the expiration of the expulsion order, without regard to any real or personal rights of the author in relation to the home.   

In the event of non-compliance with the prohibition measures to which the author is subject, he is liable to the criminal sanctions of Article 439 of the Criminal Code, namely imprisonment from six months to two years and / or a fine from EUR 251.00.- (two hundred and fifty-one euros) to EUR 3.000,00.- (three thousand euros).

Unlike its neighbors, Luxembourg has not yet taken extraordinary measures to help the victims. The measures in force at the moment are therefore those laid down in the Law: namely the expulsion of the author, the care of victims by the SAVVD (Service for assistance to victims of domestic violence) and the service of assistance for children, as well as the “Riicht Eraus” service of the Luxembourg Red Cross which helps perpetrators of violence. 

A helpline under the number 2060 1060 works for victims of domestic violence (women and men) in order to respond to the projected increase in domestic violence in the context of the COVID-19 crisis. 

The “Riicht Eraus” service has opened a hotline under the number 2755 5800. 

Finally, it should be noted that the legislator was particularly keen, despite the particular circumstances linked to the health crisis, to preserve, in favour of the victims, the protective measures established within the framework of the Law relating to this sensitive matter of violence  within a marriage, unlike the evictions operated within the framework of leases. 

Indeed, in accordance with article 5 of the Grand-Ducal Regulation of March 25th, 2020 suspending the time limits in jurisdictional matter and temporary adaptation of certain other procedural modalities, “the ordered evictions in matters of residential lease and leasehold for commercial use are suspended ”. Thus, it is clear that the eviction procedure provided for by the amended law of September 8th, 2003 on domestic violence retains all its effectiveness and applicability despite the current health crisis. 

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To find out if the period of confinement really had an impact on the acts of domestic violence and the dissolution of marriage during this period of confinement, it will take some time to allow the necessary hindsight to establish the statistical data on the matter.