Non-molestation orders are a type of injunction that the family court can grant. An injunction is a court order that forbids someone from certain behaviour. In this Sears Tooth blog, we will discuss the details you need to know if you are considering applying for a non-molestation order.
What is a non-molestation order?
A non-molestation order is a court order which protects the applicant from the behaviour of the respondent. They are often used in cases of domestic abuse but this is not their only use.
Non-molestation orders are orders under the Family Law Act 1996 and are made by the court.
What is ‘molestation’?
‘Molestation’ is not defined in law, but some examples of ‘molestation’ would be:
- Violence, or threats of violence
- Abusive language (verbal or via messaging services such as WhatsApp or Facebook)
- Harassing behaviour
What does a non-molestation order say?
A non-molestation order commonly states that a respondent must not:
- Use or threaten violence towards the applicant or any relevant children.
- Intimidate, harass or pester the applicant or any relevant children.
- Contact the applicant or any relevant children directly or indirectly.
- Damage, attempt to damage or threaten to damage the family home or any property belonging to the applicant.
- Instruct or encourage another person to take any of the above actions.
The order can also include a restriction on whether the respondent can attend or come within a certain distance of the family home or other properties, such as the children’s schools. An applicant can also apply for an occupation order if they are worried about their home. Please see our blog on Occupation Orders.
Who can apply for a non-molestation order?
The person who is applying for a non-molestation order is called the applicant. The person who the applicant wants to be protected from is the respondent.
The applicant must be ‘associated’ with the respondent. This means that the applicant and the respondent are:
- In a relationship or have been in a relationship,
- Living together or have lived together.
A relative is defined as:
- Spouse/former spouse
- Civil partner/former civil partner
- First cousin
If there are already proceedings in the family court that are ongoing, the court has the power to make a non-molestation order without the applicant making a formal application.
The court can also make a non-molestation order without the respondent being made aware of it until after it has been granted. This may happen in cases where there is an immediate risk to the applicant or there would be risk to the applicant if the respondent was aware.
What will the court consider?
In deciding whether to grant an order, the court will have regard to all the circumstances of the case, including the need to secure the health, safety and well-being of the applicant and any relevant child.
The court will also consider the following principles, which have been established by previous cases heard in court:
- There must be evidence of molestation.
- The applicant or relevant child must need protection.
- The court must be satisfied on the balance of probabilities that judicial intervention is required to control the respondent’s behaviour that is the subject of the complaint.
What will happen if a non-molestation order is breached?
Breach of a non-molestation order is an arrestable criminal offence under section 42A, Family Law Act 1996. This means that if the respondent breaches any of the terms of the order, without reasonable excuse, they can be arrested.
How long does a non-molestation order last?
The length of non-molestation orders is at the discretion of the judge. It can be for a specified amount of time or until further order, which can mean indefinitely, however this is rarer. Typically, an order may be made for between three months and one year. Ultimately, it depends on the facts of each case.
If you think you may need a non-molestation order, Sears Tooth has an experienced team who will be able to talk you through your options. Please contact us today on firstname.lastname@example.org or on +44 (0)20 7499 6699. Your enquiry will be treated in strict confidence by our experienced team.