What is a Non-molestation Order
Molestation is not defined in statute, which is a deliberate omission, so as not to allow Respondents to exploit any loopholes in the law.
It covers serious incidents such as assaults all the way down to making threats, pestering, general harassment and sending threatening SMS messages.
This can include shouting, sending abusive letters and constantly calling the applicant.
The list is lengthy. It does not require violence or threats of violence. It covers any conduct which constitutes harassment and requires the protection of the Court.
A non-molestation Order prohibits a person from molesting/harassing another person or a child. The power to make an Order is contained in section 42 of the Family Law Act 1996.
Who can apply?
The person you apply for an Order against, is known as the Respondent and you are known as the Applicant. To be able to apply, you have to be an “associated person” of the Respondent and so one of the following statements must be true:
- You are or have been married to or civil partners of each other or have agreed to marry/enter into a civil partnership
- You have cohabited together
- You have lived together in the same household in a family scenario
- You have had an intimate physical relationship of significant duration
- You are parties in the same family proceedings
- In relation to a child, you are both parents or have had parental responsibility.
For a child to be able to apply they need the Court’s permission if aged under 16 and must live with, or be expected to live with either party, or be a child whose interests the court considers relevant. Applications for children are usually brought as part of a global application for protection, but there is nothing to stop them being brought in their own right.
How much will it cost?
A Non-Molestation Order has no court fee, so it is free to apply to the court for one, however, if you use the services of a lawyer to apply, you will need to pay their fees.
How does the court approach it?
The court takes into account all of the circumstances of the case. This includes the health, safety and well-being of the person applying (the Applicant) or any relevant child.
You need to be able to prove molestation, a need for protection and that a Court Order is required to control the Respondent.
Where you are no longer with the respondent, then the more time you have been apart, the more significant a relationship is required to justify protection under this part of the law.
How long does it take to obtain a Non-Molestation order?
Where there is evidence of recent physical violence, the Court will normally grant an Order immediately to provide protection until a full hearing can take place.
This is called an Ex parte application and it means that no advance notice needs to be given to the Respondent.
However, the order does not become effective until they are personally served with it, so the respondent is not able to unknowingly breach a court order. They will also be notified within the documentation of the date of the full court hearing, which will normally be within 2-3 days. The respondent may serve a statement in response, but does not have to. At the hearing the court will decide if the Non-Molestation order continues or not.
If the court does not believe there to be imminent danger to the applicant or a relevant child, the application will need to be personally served on the respondent, not less than 2 days before the court hearing. The respondent may serve a statement in response, but does not have to. Then once the evidence from both parties has been heard, the court will decide if a Non-Molestation order can be made.
The court will list hearings for non-molestation orders as quickly as possible, usually within a few days. The hearing will take place in private unless the court directs otherwise.
How long does the Non-molestation order last for?
Generally the court will make the order for a specific period of time. However, in some rare circumstances it can make it for an indefinite period of time.
What if the Order is broken?
Just because an order has been made, do not assume this means you are completely protected.
Domestic abuse is a serious issue, especially when there are incidents of physical violence.
A court order can be a deterrent, but unfortunately it does not always stop serious offenders from trying to contact or see the person who has applied for the Non-Molestation Order.
Breach of a family non-molestation order is a criminal offence. If the police are notified of the breach, they should arrest the offender and prosecute them.
The Crown Prosecution Service is responsible for prosecuting a breach, the offence is punishable by either up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine in the Crown Court, or up to 12 months in prison or a fine in the Magistrates Court.
What do you do next?
If you are reading this page because you believe you are in immediate danger, or you feel threatened, please call the police immediately. Only then should you contact me on 07491041812 for advice on whether you can make an application for a Non-Molestation order.