What is a Non Molestation Order: Unravelling Legal Protection

What is a Non Molestation Order: Unravelling Legal Protection

Any form of domestic abuse or violence can have far-reaching consequences for the victim. In addition to physical injury, it can provoke feelings of stress, trauma, and anxiety. It may also have a bearing on finances and living conditions, impact the victim’s ability to work and influence their relationships with friends, family and colleagues.

As a victim, you may feel incredibly alone. However, legal protection from your abuser is possible, with a number of measures available to ensure your physical and mental wellbeing. One such measure is a non-molestation order (NMO).

What constitutes molestation and when does it warrant legal intervention?

According to the UK government, “Molestation’ is a word used in law and by the court to cover all kinds of unwanted, harassing and abusive behaviours.”

How does a non-molestation order differ from other legal protections against harassment?

A non-molestation order is an injunction. Unlike other forms of injunction, it is granted by the family courts. Other types of injunctions, such as restraining orders (which could also be issued in domestic abuse cases), typically follow criminal proceedings and are given by a judge sitting in the Crown or magistrates’ courts.

A non-molestation order is intended to protect a victim and any children from the risk of harm or threats. It can be issued in a range of circumstances including to protect a victim of abuse from:

  • A spouse or former spouse
  • A family member
  • A boyfriend or girlfriend where the relationship has lasted for a significant duration
  • An adopted parent
  • Someone with shared parental responsibility including an adoptive parent or prospective adoptive parent

A NMO can be granted in a range of abuse cases and isn’t limited to instances of domestic abuse. Those who are victims of financial abuse, controlling or coercive behaviour, intimidation and harassment can also apply to the courts for a non-molestation order.

What are the steps involved in obtaining a non-molestation order, and who can apply for it?

Abuse victims who are facing a threat of violence or harassment can apply for a non-molestation order for protection against that threat.

The first step in obtaining a NMO is to complete a form known as an FL401 form. This is a 20-page form which asks for more information about the circumstances leading to the application. The same form can also be used to apply for an occupation order.

The form will ask if you wish to apply for the order without notice being given to the respondent. This box should be ticked if:

  • There is a risk the respondent could become abusive and inflict harm on you or your child.
  • There is a risk they will try and avoid court proceedings, with any delay then being damaging to your health and welfare.
  • The applicant would be encouraged not to submit the application if there was a delay.

An order without the respondent’s knowledge is known as without-notice (used to be called ex-parte). If you select this option, the court will consider your application without informing the respondent but will then hold a hearing at a later date where the respondent will be present.

The form will ask for details of special circumstances, such as illness or pregnancy and will require contact information for both parties. The applicant can choose to keep their contact information confidential if appropriate.

Sections four and five of the form will ask for details of the relationship between the two parties along with family circumstances.

Section six then asks for specific details about the respondent’s behaviour. This provides the applicant with a chance to detail all unwelcome behaviours, including violence, harassment, intimidation, unwanted visits to the home or workplace, inflicting damage to the home or posting information about any related children online or in print.

Once the application form has been completed, a supporting witness statement will need to be prepared. This must be included with the application when it is submitted to the courts.

If the application hasn’t been submitted without-notice/ex-parte, a copy of the application will be provided to the respondent.

A hearing date will be given, and the court will consider the application. If it’s granted, the applicant will be afforded immediate legal protection from the respondent.

What are the consequences of breaching a non-molestation order, and how is it enforced by the authorities?

A non-molestation order is a legally binding injunction. It will typically be active for a period of six to 12 months, but may be extended beyond that period if necessary. Breaching the order could result in a prison term of up to five years.

If you’d like further information, download our complete guide to non-molestation orders. If you’re considering filing for a NMO, our family solicitors can help you through the process. Contact us to find out more.

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Shaoli has been a solicitor at NLS for over two years, transitioning from a background in criminal law to full-time family law. Her experience as a Criminal Duty Solicitor has equipped her with unique skills that are invaluable in her current role.
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