Non-molestation orders are civil court orders which aim to protect the victims of domestic violence from being abused, to stop the abuser from being violent towards the victims, either physically or by threatening and intimidating. It is a type of injunction made under The Family Law Act 1996 to protect named individuals from abuse.
The term “molestation” is not specifically defined but may include violence, threats and harassment.
A non molestation order carries the power of arrest and the penalty for breaking the order can carry a sentence of up to five years in prison.
Who can apply for a non-molestation order
A non-molestation order can only be used against someone that you are associated with in one of the following ways:
By marriage, civil partnership or engaged to be married or were married or were going to enter into a civil partnership.
You are or were living with as husband and wife including same sex relationships
A family member or relation.
Someone you have a child with or someone who has had parental responsibility for your child.
Someone you have had an intimate relationship with for a significant period of time.
It is important for you to get the right advice and help if you feel you or your children are at risk. Contact one of our family solicitors for advice.
Non-molestation orders are normally for a specified period of time. They can be renewed or they may be made 'until further order'. There is no limit on the length of time that non-molestation orders can be extended.
If you or your children are in danger and you need an emergency non-molestation order, you can apply for it 'without notice'. This is helpful if you need immediate protection. It is important to speak with an experienced Family Solicitors.
Enforcing the orders
The order must be served on the abuser once the court has granted the order and the abuser is not at court. The order must be delivered to the abuser for it to be enforced and a copy needs to be given to the local police so they are aware that it exists.
It is a criminal offence to ignore or break a non-molestation order. This makes the order more powerful as tough sentences can be imposed. However you have a choice whether the incident is brought back to the family court, or whether you would prefer to go down the criminal court route. Family court does have power to impose short custodial sentences, and has the benefit of being a closed court. Once an order is in place then you can ring the police if there is any breach and the perpetrator will be arrested for breaking their order.
There are a number of factors which the court will look at before making a decision about whether or not to issue an injunction. You can ask a solicitor and/or adviser about the likelihood of a successful application.
Be aware that many injunctions operate for a specified time period (often 3 to 6 months) and that you may need to make further applications if/when they run out.
Although injunctions are effective in protecting you, an injunction cannot guarantee your safety: you, and your children, may still face violence from your ex-partner if they decide to violate the injunction. If they do this however, they will be breaking the law and can be arrested.
Non-molestation orders also forbid abusers from instructing anyone else to harass or intimidate or use violence against the applicant. The order can also forbid the abuser from damaging or disposing of the applicant's possessions.
You may therefore wish to consider applying for one even if you have left home and your (ex) partner doesn't know where you are if you are worried they may damage your possessions.
You don't have to have actually experienced violence in order to apply for a non-molestation order. You may apply if you are being intimidated or harassed by your ex. Often the courts will want some sort of evidence that you are being harassed or intimidated so a non molestation order without violence is harder to get.
Sometimes a person may apply for a non-molestation order against current as well as former partners. If you are still in a relationship with your abuser you need to decide whether or not this is likely to help the situation and improve their behaviour towards you. You know them best and if you think that this is likely to inflame the abusive behaviour, then this may not be the best option for you.