If you are the victim of domestic abuse, you can obtain a Non-Molestation Order against your abuser. A Non-Molestation Order is one of two types of order available, the other is an Occupation Order, as part of the Family Law Act 1996. Our specialist domestic abuse support team can help you secure a Non-Molestation Order.
Non-Molestation Orders and Domestic Abuse
Domestic abuse victims often suffer in silence for years, oblivious to the protections available to them by the Courts and other law enforcement authorities. A Non-Molestation Order is one of the protections that domestic abuse sufferers know very little about. Holland Family Law is putting that right…
Non-Molestation Orders Explained
A Non-Molestation Order is a civil order obtained by a victim of domestic abuse from a Judge sitting in the Family Court in England and Wales.
Domestic abuse can include, but is not limited to, verbal, physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse. It can also cover coercive and controlling behaviour, intimidating behaviour and harassment. Such abuse can be just once or over a sustained period of time.
If you are a victim of domestic abuse you can apply to the Court for a Non-Molestation Order against the person abusing you. However, that person must be an ‘associated person’.
An associated person(s) can include spouses, ex-spouses, civil partners, ex-civil partners, cohabitees and former cohabitees; it can also include various family members.
The victim of the abuse, when applying to the Court for a Non-Molestation order, is referred to as the ‘applicant’ and the person against whom orders are sought is known as the ‘respondent’.
If the Court grants an application for a Non-Molestation Order to the victim, then the court will direct that the abuser cannot do or take certain actions.
For example, not to approach the victim, not to act in a threatening manner or use violence or abuse towards a victim (in some cases the child(ren)) or attend any property occupied by the victim.
A Non-Molestation Order would usually specify that the abuser cannot use or threaten violence, but may also prohibit other, more general behaviours, which amount to harassment or cause distress to a victim.
An example might be to stop the abuser contacting the victim by numerous means, through social media and text messages and not just telephone calls. A Non-Molestation Order, if granted, prohibits the abuser from ‘molesting’ the victim. It can also prohibit other parties doing the same on behalf of the abuser.
A Non-Molestation Order is usually time limited and provides protection to the victim. If it becomes necessary, and the abuser has not complied with the Order, then the victim could, if the Order is coming to an end, apply for the Order to be further extended. Evidence of the non-compliance will be needed to support such an application.
What Happens if the Abuser Breaches the Non-Molestation Order?
If an order is made by the Court and this is breached by the abuser, either by themselves or by instructing any other person to do so, then the victim should immediately contact the Police.
A Non-Molestation Order carries an immediate power of arrest to the Police. The Police can arrest the abuser and take them through the criminal court system. If found guilty of a breach of the terms of a Non-Molestation Order the abuser can face charges for a criminal offence and can be dealt with by a fine or up to five years imprisonment.
It will always be the nature of the breach and the reasons given by the abuser for the breach that will determine the Court’s sentencing powers. It is possible that although an initial and/or minor breach may not attract a custodial sentence, any persistent or serious breaches may well do.
In addition to seeking a Non- molestation Order, a victim may also need to apply to the Court to remain in the family home and to seek the exclusion of the abuser.
In such circumstances, the option available would be to seek an Occupation Order to maintain some stability for the victim and any child(ren). Such an order is available to an ‘associated person.’ The Court has the power to remove the abuser, for example your spouse or partner, from the family home.
There are also additional powers available to a Judge making an Occupation Order, such as requiring one party to be responsible for maintenance of the home and paying the rent or mortgage and other outgoings such as Council Tax and utility bills affecting the home.
Occupation Orders can, in some circumstances, be complicated as they affect one party’s right to live in the family home and such orders are sometimes considered to be ‘draconian’ orders. However, safety of the victim and children of the victim will be paramount in the Court’s consideration of whether to grant such an order.
If you feel you need the benefit of an Occupation Order, then it is extremely important to get the right advice at an early stage for your circumstances.
The Court may or may not attach a power of arrest to an Occupation Order and again, this depends on the circumstances at the time of the application/hearing.
When Should You Seek a Non-Molestation Order?
No one should have to live with the threat or actuality of domestic abuse. If you are a victim of abuse and your abuser is an associated person, then you should apply for an order to stop the abuse.
The sooner the victim applies for a Non-Molestation Order the better, as this will afford some safety to the victim (and any child(ren)) and will control the behaviour and conduct of the abuser as the Court will place clear and precise restrictions on the abuser.