What is a non-molestation order? A non-molestation order is a form of injunction which protects people from violence or harassment. It is designed to protect people from molestation.

Non-molestation orders are one of the strongest and best ways an individual can protect themselves against any form of domestic abuse.

Molestation is given no particular definition, but applications are often brought on the basis of physical or psychological abuse, threats, intimidation, stalking and nuisance communications. Orders come with a power of arrest so that the Police can arrest a perpetrator who breaches an order.

Non-molestation orders are incredibly effective and can be applied for quickly and easily. They can also be made to prevent a perpetrator from using or threatening violence towards children. Breach of a non-molestation order is also a criminal offence.

Who can apply for a non-molestation order?

To make an application for a non-molestation order, there must be an association between the person making an application and the abuser. This association must be under the Family Law Act 1996 and includes:

  • Former and current spouses
  • Civil partners
  • Cohabitants
  • Fiancé(e)s
  • Relatives
  • People living in the same household
  • The parents of children in the house  
  • Those who have been in intimate personal relationships

Do I have to attend court to apply for a non-molestation order?

The short answer is yes. To apply for a non-molestation order, you must complete an application form and a witness statement setting out in detail examples of the behaviour you are relying on in support of the application.

In urgent cases where your safety or the safety of any children is at risk, the other party will not be given notice of the first application. This is called a ‘without notice’ application. If that process is followed, the court will make a non-molestation order without hearing evidence from the other party.

In all other cases, the court will fix an urgent date for a hearing ‘on notice’ to the other party. They will be asked whether they accept the order being made or whether they contest the order. If a respondent accepts the order, the order will be made. If they contest it, the other party can file evidence to challenge the statement made in support of the application, and the court will decide whether to grant the order.

What is a non-molestation order? What does the order include?

Any non-molestation orders will contain a list of things the respondent is prohibited from doing. Typically, a non-molestation order will prevent someone from:

  1. Using or threatening to use violence against the applicant or encouraging anyone else to do so.
  2. Intimidating, harassing or pestering the applicant or encouraging anyone else to do so.
  3. Communicating with the applicant.
  4. Damaging or destroying property belonging to the applicant or encouraging anyone else to do so.
  5. Going near where the applicant lives or anywhere it is believed the applicant is living.

How does the court decide whether to make the non-molestation order?

When making a non-molestation order, the court considers the health (mental and physical), safety and well-being of the applicant or any relevant child. It must be satisfied that there is evidence of molestation and that the applicant or children need protection from the court. 

How long does a non-molestation order last?

The order can last either for a specified period of time or indefinitely depending on what the court decides.

What are undertakings?

In many cases, instead of agreeing to an order, the respondent will offer to provide an undertaking not to carry out the behaviour complained of in the application. Undertakings are legally binding promises to the court and are an alternative to the court making an order. The advantage of accepting an undertaking from the person applying for an order is that they are given legal protection without the delay and expense of a contested hearing.

The other party will sometimes offer an undertaking to avoid the court making serious findings against them. The difference is that breach of an undertaking is contempt of court, which can be punished by committal to prison, but it is not a criminal offence, and no power of arrest can be attached.

Non-molestation orders and Watson Morris

Non-molestation orders can be applied for quickly and, in serious cases of physical threats or abuse, without giving the other party notice of the application. They are a highly effective tool in a wide range of situations.

Anyone seeking further advice on non-molestation orders or other areas of family law should contact the team at Watson Morris today.

Written by Peter Morris

September 8, 2023

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