Domestic Abuse: how the Family Courts can offer protection

Category: Divorce, Domestic Violence, Family

In this article, we are going to explain how the Family Courts can offer victims of domestic abuse protection through a Non-Molestation Order.

First, we would like to cover a few important things. Domestic abuse can take many forms and it’s not always physical. The most common forms are emotional, psychological, financial or sexual. A number of charitable organisations are able to support victims of domestic abuse and one organisation in particular is Refuge. They offer a free 24/7 helpline to those who need support. If you need help, you might want to speak with family members, friends, or medical professionals first. However, we would highly recommend visiting the Refuge website: https://www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk/. They have a lot of really good advice and support right there for anyone who needs it.

If you or your children are at immediate risk of harm, we advise you to contact the police immediately. You can later seek advice from a solicitor. But please remember, there is never an excuse for domestic abuse.

Non-Molestation Orders

What is a Non-Molestation Order?

Maybe you have heard the term before, but you aren’t sure what it means. A Non-Molestation Order prohibits a person (the respondent) associated with the applicant from harassing (molesting) them. A non-molestation order could also cover any relevant child. If a Non-Molestation Order is made and breached, it’s a criminal offence.  

What does Molesting mean?

Strangely, there is still no legal definition of what molesting is. However, it can include acts or threats of violence, continuous unwanted phone calls, text messages or other unwanted and harassing behaviour.

Who can apply for a Non-Molestation Order?  

You can apply for a Non-Molestation Order if the respondent (the abuser) falls within one of the following categories:

  • They’re married or they intend getting married to one another;
  • They’re in a civil partnership or intended to be in a civil partnership together;
  • They are or were cohabitating;
  • They live or have lived in the same household in a family relationship;
  • They’re relatives (defined as parent, stepparent, child, stepchild, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, uncle, aunt, niece, nephew or first cousin);
  • They have or have had an intimate personal relationship of significant duration with each other; and
  • In relation to a child, they either are a parent of the child; or have or have had parental responsibility for the child.

If the abuser does not fall within the above categories, a Non-Molestation Order cannot be applied for. However, there may be other options available to you.

non-molestation

Application ‘Without Notice’ to the Respondent

The Non-Molestation Order can be applied on a ‘without notice’ basis. This means that the application is made without informing the abuser (respondent). If the Order is granted, the Court will schedule a return hearing for the respondent to be given an opportunity to provide their response. If a respondent challenges this, the Court can Order a contested hearing.

Considerations of the Court

In order to obtain a Non-Molestation Order, the Court must be satisfied with a number of things:

  • The respondent has acted in a molesting manner;
  • That the applicant needs the protection; and
  • On a balance of probabilities the Order is necessary to control the respondent’s behaviour.

The individual judge will decide the length of the Order based on individual circumstances.

The Court can consider what the respondent is restricted from doing. The Court can also prevent the respondent from attending certain locations. Moreover, they can establish a radius around the applicant’s home address, if this is necessary to protect the applicant.

Funding

In recent years, there have been significant changes to the availability of legal aid for family matters. However it can still be available when dealing with some aspects of family law. Especially if we can help prove that you’re a victim of domestic violence or if Social Services have concerns about the safety of your children. You also need to meet the financial criteria. Please do get in contact with the Family Department here at Nash & Co Solicitors on 01752 827030 if you have any questions about whether you qualify for Legal Aid.

Domestic Abuse and Lockdown

With the current national lockdown in place, the increased pressures of living with an abuser can be huge. Please know that the household isolation rules imposed by the Government do not apply to you if you do need to leave your home to escape domestic abuse. We can’t stress this enough. If you’re in immediate danger, please call the Police.

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What now?

If you have any questions about Non-Molestation Orders or if you need further information about domestic abuse and family matters, please contact one of our fantastic Family lawyers. You can reach the team on 01752 827030 or you can email Rhianna Greenley at [email protected].

You can also ask us to call you back by filling out the Call Back Request form on our Contact Page.