Non-molestation orders – designed to protect victims of domestic violence from being abused and to stop the abuser from being violent towards the victims – help victims to deal with difficult ex-partners and people they are still in a relationship with.
Those who have to deal with another person’s unacceptable behaviour that might affect their mental or physical health can seek an order through the family court.
These orders, also known as injunctions, aim to safeguard people from further abuse – whether physical, threats or intimidation.
Targets of abuse can apply for a non-molestation order against someone they are in a current or previous relationship with. This can include a married partner, a civil partner, or a same sex partner, or other family members.
Those who fear that they or their children are in imminent danger can apply for an emergency non-molestation order for immediate protection. Legal Aid is sometimes available; however, applicants will usually have to pay a contribution.
An order warns the other person that he or she must not breach any of the actions the order specifically forbids, on pain of imprisonment of up to five years and/or a fine. The behaviour depends on the specific circumstances of the case, but characteristically includes the use or threat of violence, harassment by contact or communication – and damage to property.
The orders are generally granted for a set period (usually three to six months), but can be renewed or made ‘until further order’, depending on the seriousness of the case.
It is a criminal offence to disobey such an order and those who do will be arrested, if reported. Victims who wish to avoid involving the police in their family issues should bear in mind that the family court can impose short custodial sessions for breaches in closed sessions.
Non-molestation orders may be combined with occupation orders, which keep the other person out of the family home until finances are dealt with.
An occupation order can be obtained as a result of non-violent, non- threatening actions. One of my cases was based on persistent difficult behaviour, which involved the other person persistently turned off the hot water system so my client could not have a hot bath to alleviate her bad back.
Combined with other relatively minor unpleasant behaviours, this was enough for us to obtain an occupation order so that person had to leave the home.
Unless protection is needed urgently, it is important that anyone seeking a non-molestation order first secures the right advice from an experienced family lawyer – particularly if children are involved.
More articles by Vanessa Fox can be found here – Vanessa Fox on TDM
Collaboratively trained and a qualified mediator, she has modernised South Yorkshire Resolution since becoming chair in 2013 and is also a member of the Law Society’s Family Law Panel and the Children Panel.
She can be contacted on 0114 290 6232 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.