Every day is a fight to survive when you find yourself amid an abusive relationship. On top of the actual abuse, the hyper-vigilance required, the internal turmoil, and the intense emotional toll it can take on an individual are often too much to bear. And yet, for so many reasons, abusive relationships can feel so impossible to escape.
In the United Kingdom, there are several government-issued protections in place devised for individuals who find themselves in situations shrouded in domestic abuse. These are called ‘injunctions.’
There are two primary injunctions:
- the first is called a non-molestation order. This protects the applicant (and in many situations, their child/children) from being harmed or threatened by the person who is abusing them.
- The second is called an occupation order. This designates who can live in the family home or enter the surrounding area.
In either case, the person named in the injunction can be arrested if they break the court order. The present article will be focusing on non-molestation orders. For more information about occupation orders, see here.
What is a non-molestation order?
A non-molestation order is a court-ordered mandate which prohibits a person (the recipient) from molesting the person who has applied (the applicant) or any related child or children. Non-molestation orders are most commonly used in situations of domestic abuse; however, they can also be used in other situations.
How to apply for a non-molestation order
To apply for a non-molestation order, you must be 16 years or older. You can apply if you are a victim of domestic abuse or molestation, and your respondent is a current or past partner. Examples of partners include:
- A family member
- Someone with whom you had an intimate emotional or physical relationship
- The father or mother of your child (or someone with legal parental responsibility for them)
- Someone with whom you are living or used to live with
- A present or past fiancé, spouse, or civil partner
Concrete examples of molestation include acts or threats of violence, use of abusive language, stalking, or abusive messaging.
To apply for an order, you fill out a form called the FL401. It runs nearly ten pages and asks detailed personal questions. You will also need to include supporting evidence. This is to demonstrate to the court that legal protection is imperative in your situation.
For privacy reasons, if you choose to fill it out independently, you will need to sign three copies of the form and take them to family court. There is a £75 court fee. Alternatively, you can apply for order through RCJ Citizens Advice here. This waives any associated application costs but affiliates you with the organisation throughout your application process.
Will my partner know about the order?
You can apply for a non-molestation order without the approval or knowledge of your partner. This can provide significant protection if you need legal backing in your initial efforts to leave a dangerous relationship.
It is important to note that the order only comes into place when your partner has been served with it. At this point, the court has approved it and provided guidelines. However, until a solicitor can confirm the respondent’s knowledge of the order’s existence, no actions can be claimed a breach.
What is included in a successful order, and how long does it last?
The court often deems what is necessary in a non-molestation order on a case-by-case basis, depending on the relationship between the applicant and the respondent. Common examples of conditions that the court can grant in a non-molestation order include prohibiting:
- Communication with the applicant in any way except through a Solicitor
- Coming within 100m of the applicant’s dwelling
- Sending any abusive letters, texts, or other communications to the applicant
- Threatening or using violence against the applicant
Non-molestation orders typically last until a further Order of the Court. This means that its length is reviewed at the return hearing. If it is deemed necessary for a more extended period, the order will remain in force, typically for a duration of six to twelve months.
What happens if the respondent breaks the order?
Non-molestation orders are incredibly powerful. They are upheld by the law at the highest degree, to keep all citizens safe. As such, breaching these orders is an arrestable offence. If guilty, the offender is likely to be arrested and could face a maximum of up to five years in prison.
The stigma around asking for help
If you or someone you know is struggling in an abusive situation, understand that this is not your (or their) fault. Nobody should have to endure domestic violence. Everybody has a right to feel safe and cared for in their homes.
If you feel that you or your children are in any danger, call the police and file a non-molestation order with the courts. There should be no stigma or embarrassment associated with putting your safety first.
For support or guidance through the healing process, see the following list of emotional support groups:
- National Domestic Abuse Helpline (www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk)
- Women’s Aid (www.womens.aid.org.uk)
- Men’s Advice Line (www.mensadviceline.org.uk)
Get expert legal advice from an experienced domestic violence solicitor to get the law on your side.
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