Domestic Abuse: Non-molestation Orders
Domestic abuse affects women, men and children of all ages and backgrounds. It has always been an issue that has troubled many people on a day to day basis.
The number of victims reporting domestic abuse increased drastically during the pandemic. Sadly, the figures have continued to increase since the pandemic came to an end. The Office for National Statistics reported a 65% increase in calls made to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline between April and June 2020, compared to the previous three months. These numbers continue to remain high, with many victims turning to the legal system for help.
What is Domestic Abuse?
Domestic abuse is “an incident or pattern of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse”. This includes the following types of abuse:
*This is a non-exhaustive list
The law recognises the need to offer protection to victims of domestic abuse, to protect them from further abuse. Victims can apply to the court for a Non-molestation Order.
What is a Non-molestation Order?
A Non-molestation Order is a protective order, which prohibits a person (‘the respondent’) from molesting the person who has applied for the Order (‘the applicant’). Orders can extend to protect any related children.
Victims of domestic abuse often rely on Non-molestation Orders to protect themselves and their children from the risk of further harm or actual harm.
What kind of protection does the Order offer?
Whilst Non-molestation Orders are tailored to the specific needs of the applicant, they typically prevent the respondent from:
- Using or threatening violence towards the applicant
- Intimidating or harassing the applicant
- Sending any threatening or abusive text messages, electronic communications or letters to the applicant
- Communicating with the applicant, unless it is through their solicitors
- Damaging, attempting to damage or threatening to damage any property belonging to the applicant
- Encouraging another person to carry out any of the above
Who can apply?
To make an application for a Non-molestation Order, the applicant must show that they are ‘personally connected’ to the respondent.
This includes the following:
- Spouse/former spouse
- Civil partner/former civil partner
- Fiancé/former fiancé
- Mother or father of your child
- Family member
- Someone you live with or have lived with
- Someone you have been in an intimate relationship with
Both the applicant and the respondent must be aged 16 years or over.
How long does the Order last for?
Non-molestation Orders typically last between 6 to 12 months, although it is possible for the court to make an order that lasts for a longer period of time.
If necessary Orders can be extended beyond the fixed period by making an application to the Court for example, if the applicant feels their situation has not changed and that they will be in danger without the extended protection or they have continued to be subjected to abuse, the Court may consider this to be an appropriate reason to extend the order.
Will the respondent know about the Order?
In certain circumstances, it is possible to make an application for a Non-molestation Order without the knowledge of the respondent. These applications are known as ‘ex-parte’ or ‘without notice’ and are useful in situations where the applicant faces immediate risk of harm. Such an application can also be issued where there is a risk that the abuser will deter the victim from issuing the application if they have prior knowledge of the application.
In such situations the court may make a ruling in the absence of the respondent which offers the applicant immediate protection. However, the respondent will be invited to attend the court at a later date to give his own account of the events.. Where the Court considers the facts of the case and takes the view that the victim is not at risk of suffering harm, it may take the view that the application needs to be heard ‘on notice’, which simply means the respondent will receive notice of the hearing.
Can the respondent challenge the Order?
Yes. If you are a respondent and feel a wrongful application has been made against you, you should seek legal advice from a solicitor immediately
We can assist you by drafting a statement detailing your account of the events with any evidence you may have. We will also attend court and ask the judge to make a ruling that the allegations made are false.
What happens if the respondent breaches the Order?
Breaching a Non-molestation Order is very serious and considered a criminal offence. It could result in imprisonment and/or a fine.
Any breaches should immediately be reported to the police.
What other orders can I apply for?
Occupation Orders are often sought alongside Non-molestation Orders. An application can be made where the applicant wants to remain in the family home which they jointly own or rent with the respondent. Occupation Orders can be relied on to decide who should live, or not live in the house or any part of it subject to the Court being satisfied that you and any child(ren) of the family are likely to suffer from significant harm if the occupation order was not made, when compared to the harm the respondent would suffer.
We are here to help you
Our dedicated Family Law team are here to offer you the support you need, whether you have been a victim of domestic abuse or wrongly accused.
We understand that this is a sensitive matter and a difficult time for you. We are here to listen to you and support you through the legal process.
We undertake both private paying and Legal Aid work. If you would like to check whether you are eligible for Legal Aid, please call us.
For initial legal advice call our Family Law Department on 0208 514 9000
Domestic abuse can be a very traumatic and distressing experience. Victims often need and benefits from further support outside of legal assistance. Below are some organisations that can help you:
Article by Hatice Tas