When you’re in an abusive relationship, you may find yourself constantly worrying about the safety of you and your children.
No one should have to endure these feelings, so if you feel that you or your children are in danger, from a partner or former partner, you can apply to the courts for a non-molestation order.
If you feel like you’re in immediate danger, your first point of contact should always be the police, but by applying for a non-molestation order you can ensure the safety of yourself and your children in the future.
Getting a non-molestation order put in place can often be quite simple if you understand the process and what is required of you beforehand.
In this article, we’re going to be taking you through everything that you might need to know, so you feel confident when the time comes to apply through the courts so you, and your children, can live a happy and safe life.
What is a non-molestation order?
A non-molestation order is a type of injunction that you can apply for through the family court. These orders are granted in order to prevent a partner, or former partner (or other “associated person”), from causing you or children harm.
Harm doesn’t just mean physical harm, it can also include harassment, intimidation, psychological abuse, or even threats to inflict physical harm, as well as coercive and controlling behaviour and financial abuse.
Non-molestation orders can be served to many different types of people that you have a relationship with, not just spouses, this is what is known as “associated persons”.
These orders can be applied against:
- A spouse, or ex-spouse
- A civil partner, or previous civil partner
- A fiancé(e) or ex-fiancé(e)
- A family member
- Someone who you live with, or used to live with
- The father or mother of your children
These orders are very serious and can have serious consequences if they are broken. Once you have a non-molestation order put in place, you should feel much safer as any breaches amount to an arrestable offence and depending on the seriousness of any reported breach, the person that has breached the order could result in up to 5 years in prison.
How long does a non-molestation order last?
Non-molestation orders are injunctions which will typically last anywhere between 6 and 12 months, depending on the circumstances.
It’s also possible for an order to last longer than this period, but it will depend on your situation and the decision of the courts.
If you get to the end of your fixed court order, it’s also possible to extend the order if your situation hasn’t changed and you still feel in danger.
How to apply for a non-molestation order?
You can apply for a non-molestation order yourself, however the process includes filling out a FL401 form which is now over 20 pages long, including a requirement for a witness statement in support. It’s normally best to get some legal advice to avoid making any mistakes that could cause delays in getting your injunction granted and so you can be advised on merits of applying without notice to the opponent.
There is no court fee for this type of application and courts will accept the applications via email provided they are all signed and have the supporting evidence.
How to discharge a non-molestation order?
The court can be asked, on application, to discharge the order. A party to the case (the applicant or respondent; or both) can do this by writing to the courts and explaining the situation; stating why they think the order should no longer be in place. A family court Judge will decide whether it is appropriate for any previously granted order to be discharged.
How easy is it to get a non-molestation order?
The process of getting a non-molestation order is often quite simple, but you may face delays in the courts if the family Judge is not clear as to the merits/ justification of your application.
It’s always best to bring as much evidence as you can when you attend family court to get your order granted. This includes bringing detailed descriptions of times when you have been physically or emotionally harmed, the effects that it’s had on you and your children, and even police or medical records if you have them.
Bringing this information will make it a lot easier for the courts to grant the order straight away.
What will happen in court for a non-molestation order?
All non-molestation cases will be heard in Family Court and will only be attended by people who are directly concerned with your case—this is unlike criminal court where there may often be members of the public in attendance.
You’ll be able to bring in your solicitor or legal representative with you, but you may not be able to bring in a friend or someone for support.
During the hearing, the judge will consider all statements and evidence before they make a decision as to whether to grant the order or not. Sometimes the court may direct some further evidence before being able to make a decision.
Currently, how courts will deal with these applications varies nationally. Some deal with these applications on paper, some list a remote hearing and some request parties to attend court. The court will advise you whether you are required to attend court in person for your case.
How to challenge a non-molestation order?
Unfortunately, sometimes people may be falsely accused and face a non-molestation order based on untruths and misstatements. If you find yourself in this position, you do have the right to challenge the claims that are being made against you.
The best thing to do first is to talk to your solicitor, so you can understand your rights and figure out the ideal process for making your challenge. There should be provision in any order advising you of how to challenge the order and usually a hearing date is fixed for you to attend so your views can be heard at that point, if not before then.
Does my partner have to know about the order?
There may be times that you don’t want a partner knowing about a non-molestation order you’re applying for, and it is possible to apply for one without them knowing subject to certain considerations being met.
This is something known as “ex-parte”/ “without notice” applications and is especially useful for situations when you need protection quickly or if you feel like you’ll be in more danger if your partner were to find out about the order before you apply for it.
Although you can get the protection you need without having to consult your partner, it will not be a final non-molestation order that’s granted. The court will usually grant a second hearing at which your opponent will be invited to attend and give their views on the application and order; if your opponent does not agree for the case to end at that point, then further evidence and statements may be directed by the court and the case may have to then proceed to a trial in the family court. That can cause delay in your proceedings and obtaining the final order.
How much does a non-molestation order cost?
Non-molestation orders have no court fees, so you don’t need to worry about the financial expense of applying for one.
How long does applying for a non-molestation order take?
Depending on how much evidence you have and the time it takes to get a court hearing, you should be looking at no more than a few weeks before your non-molestation order application is considered.
However, if you find yourself in immediate danger, you can make an emergency application to the courts on the same day, without your partner having to be there, which will give you protection by the terms of the order (once your partner has been “served”).
How is a non-molestation order served?
Attempts will always be made to serve the non-molestation order on the abuser in person to ensure that they have received the order. Sometimes the court will permit other methods of service and if that has been permitted, it will be confirmed on the face of the order.
These orders should be served as soon as possible after the order has been made.
Usually, you would arrange for a process server to carry out service as it is rarely appropriate for you to arrange service yourself. A statement of service will confirm the date and time the respondent was served.
What happens if you breach a non-molestation order?
Non-molestation orders are very serious and powerful orders and any breaches amount to a criminal offence and will be dealt with by the police, which can sometimes mean a prison sentence in cases of the most severe breaches.
If you ever feel like you’re in danger again, you should call the police straight away.
We’re here to help
At National Legal Service, we understand that making the decision to apply for a non-molestation order is a big one and can be especially frightening if you feel like you, or your children, may be in danger.
We’re here to support you through the whole process, and to help you gather all of the information and evidence that you may need to speed up proceedings and get the protection that you need.
Our expert team of solicitors is always on hand to offer expert legal advice so that you never have to feel unsafe because of a partner ever again.
If you’d like to talk to us about a non-molestation order, call us on 020 3601 5051 and we can help guide you towards the best possible course of action.