What is a Non-Molestation Order?

What is a non-molestation order?  

Non-molestation orders can be obtained as a means of protecting victims of domestic abuse. The Order prohibits the abuser from molesting the applicant. It also protects the applicant from threats of violence, harassment, and abusive messaging such as text messaging or messages via social media.  

It is a criminal offence to breach a non-molestation order. 

 

How do you apply for a non-molestation order?  

To apply for a non-molestation order, you must be able to demonstrate that you are ‘associated’ with the abuser under the Family Law Act 1996. Essentially, this means that you and the abuser must be or have been in a relationship, live together or have lived together, or be relatives.   

Applications for a non-molestation order can be made without notice. This means that the abuser is not made aware of the application until the order has been granted. This provides protection for the applicant as, in some cases, notifying the abuser of the Order would put the applicant at risk of harm.  

Within 14 days of a without notice application for a non-molestation order being submitted to the court, the court will list the matter for a return hearing. This gives the respondent a chance to respond to the application.  

At this stage, the respondent can either oppose the order and succeed in proving that the order is not necessary, choose to accept the order, or agree to give an undertaking on the basis that they do not accept the allegations made against them. An undertaking is a promise to the court not to do something. 

 

Who can apply?  

As stated above, the applicant must be ‘associated’ with the abuser. Some examples of those who are eligible to apply are as follows:  

  • A spouse or ex-spouse  
  • A civil partner or previous civil partner 
  • Someone who you are living with or have lived with 
  • The father or mother of your child 
  • Someone who you have had an intimate personal relationship with 
  • A family member  

What will the court take into consideration? 

In deciding whether to make a non-molestation order, the court will consider the circumstances of the applicant. Mainly, the court will consider the need to secure the health, safety and wellbeing of the applicant and any children.  

When applying for a non-molestation order, any evidence of the abuse will be beneficial to strengthen your case. This can include screenshots of abusive text messages or photographs of any injuries or damage.  

 

How long will a non-molestation order be granted for?  

Usually, a non-molestation order will be granted for 6-12 months. However, it can be granted for longer periods of time in certain scenarios. Further, the order can also be extended.  

 

When will the Order come into effect?  

Once granted by the court, a non-molestation order does not come into effect until it has been served on the abuser. This is to enable the Court to be sure that the other party is aware of its existence as, unless they have knowledge of the Order, they cannot be charged for breaching it. 

 

Enforcement of the Order 

Should the abuser breach the non-molestation order, you can enforce this by either reporting the abuser to the police to commence criminal proceedings, or apply to the family court which made the order for the respondent to be arrested and/or punished under civil proceedings.  

If criminal proceedings commence, the maximum sentence for breach of a non-molestation order is up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine.  

However, in civil proceedings, the maximum sentence is up to two years’ imprisonment, a suspended sentence or a fine.  

The advantage of a non-molestation order is that the existence of the injunction can dramatically influence the abuser’s behaviour as they are aware that others are involved and that they will face serious consequences if they continue to molest the applicant.  

 

Next steps 

At MSB, we are specialists in domestic abuse, with five of our team holding the Resolution Accreditation in Domestic Abuse. If you require assistance in applying for a non-molestation order or any further advice, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our Family team who will be happy to discuss matters with you.  

This blog was created by Amy Deane.

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