Understanding terms of a non-molestation order

What is a non-molestation order?

A non molestation order is a special injunction that aims to prevent a partner or former partner from harming you or your children.

Harm means actual physical violence or the threat of physical violence, any form of harassment or intimidation, as well as psychological abuse.

Who can it be applied to?

It can be applied to any partner or previous partner including the following:

  • A spouse or ex-spouse
  • A civil partner or previous civil partner
  • A fiancé(e) or ex-fiancé(e)
  • Someone with whom you are living or used to live with
  • The father or mother of your child
  • Someone with whom you have had an intimate personal relationship
  • A family member

All of these apply equally to same sex and mixed sex partners.

How does it protect me?

A non-molestation order is very powerful. If it is breached then it is an arrestable offence. The offender is likely to be arrested by the police and could be subject to imprisonment for a period of up to five years.

Does my partner need to know that I have applied for a non-molestation order?

No, you can do it without your partner knowing. Legally this is known as “ex-parte”. This is useful as it can give you more protection as it can be granted almost straight away.

Note that when this happens without the other side of the case being heard then the court might order another hearing in which it takes into consideration any evidence presented by the other side.

When does it come into effect?

It doesn’t come into effect until your partner has been served with it. The reason for this is that the courts have to be sure that the other party has knowledge of its existence. They can’t be charged with breaching a court order of which they have no knowledge.

How long does it last?

It can run for a fixed period or it can last indefinitely; generally it is continues to run until it is cancelled by another court order.

How do I apply for one?

You can apply for one yourself, but you will need to fill out a form called FL401. It is a fairly lengthy form and runs to ten pages including the supporting information. You need to sign three copies of it and take it to your family court. You will also need to pay the court fees of £75.

I have been served with a non-molestation order, but I do not agree with the allegations . What can I do about it?

If this is the case then you have the right of appeal to the courts. 

Responding To Non-Molestation Order/Application

Responding to non-molestation orders or applications requires some careful thought and consideration. It is all too easy for people to get caught up in the case because of the emotional attachment between the parties. Many respondents feel aggrieved when they see that a person (typically an ex-partner) has sought to take out a court order against them on the basis of what they say are simply lies. With that, many people opt to fight against an order simply because they do not want the applicant to ‘win’, or for their own name to be blackened. However, a respondent should always consider what challenging the order is actually going to achieve. 

Next Hearing After The Ex Parte Non-Molestation Order

Within 14 days of the ex parte non-molestation order being made against a person, the court would list the matter for a hearing whereby the Respondent would get an opportunity to respond to the ex parte non-molestation order.

What Options Are Available To The Respondent After Ex Parte Non-Molestation Order?

The Respondent can either:

  • oppose the order and succeed in proving the applicant wrong; or
  • he/she can opt not to oppose the order or agree to undertakings (which is a promise to the court not to do things) on the basis that he/she does not accept the allegations that have been made against him/her

    What Steps Should Be Taken By Respondent Upon Receipt Of An Ex Parte Non-Molestation Order?

The steps that the Respondent should take upon receipt of the ex parte non-molestation order (without notice non-molestation order) may include the following:

Getting Early Legal Advice

It is very important for the respondent to get early legal advice. Many respondents will tend to attend the hearing, on their own, only to tell the Judge that they would like an adjournment to see a legal professional.

At that point, the case will end up having a minimum of three hearings before you will see any real progress being made.

Legal aid is no longer available to respondents in non-molestation order proceedings, so it is a worthwhile investment to obtain legal advice, even if that is limited to a conference as enable you to understand your options for the hearing.

Gathering Your Evidence

If the respondent wants to contest or oppose the domestic violence allegation made in the application or ex parte non-molestation order, he/she should gather his evidence for rebuttal of the allegation of domestic violence. The respondent should give careful consideration to the evidence that he/she needs to help support his case.

Normally, the applicant will have his/her own statement and may also have witnesses, medical and police evidence. It is therefore important to see what the respondent does have to rebut the applicant’s allegations? The court approaches these cases on the understanding that it is for the applicant to prove his/her case on the balance of probabilities (i.e. 51%) – if you are unable to get any independent evidence to support your case, it is likely that this will make it all the more difficult to successfully oppose the non-molestation order application.

If the respondent intends to oppose or contest the non-molestation order or application, we will be able to advise the respondent on the relevant evidence which should be put together in order to rebut the allegations of domestic violence made by the applicant. Our family law solicitors will also advise on all the relevant court procedures and any pre-cautionary measures which should be taken by the respondent.

Adhering To The Terms Of The Order

The respondent should remember to adhere to the terms of the order. Before the court hears your initial position and possibly even after the initial position if the case is being listed to entertain a fully contested hearing, then the order will usually remain in place. This will specify terms, typically that you must not contact the applicant/attend at his/her house etc. It is vital that these terms are adhered to for the life of the order, firstly because it will make an incredibly poor impression on the court if not, but also because breach of an order is a criminal offence and one could therefore find himself/herself arrested/with a conviction simply for ignoring the order. Courts take these matters very seriously and, irrespective of whether the order is justified, whilst it exists, it must be adhered to.

Getting help

Most people find that they need help with obtaining a non-molestation order as it can be a very distressing experience, particularly if you feel that you are in danger. 

If you need help obtaining or challenging a non-molestation order please call 0191.4862799 or email: jbrown@nechambers.co.uk 

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