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What is a Non-Molestation Order

What is a Non-Molestation Order?

04/03/2024
(Last Updated: 07/03/2024)
8 min read
Key Takeaways
  • A Non-Molestation Order is applied through the Family Law courts in domestic abuse and molestation cases, in extreme cases that meet tests supported by detailed evidence.
  • Molestation is any form of physical, sexual or psychological molestation or harassment that has a serious impact on the health and well-being of the Applicant.
  • A family or civil may make an NMO to stop future pestering, intimidation or harassment, or the Applicant and Respondent can give joint undertakings.
  • Breaching an order is a criminal offence; you can be arrested, fined, and/or jailed.

Non-Molestation order meaning

Non-molestation orders (NMOs)are used to legally stop someone, be it a romantic partner, spouse, relative, or housemate, from causing you harm where there is a risk to your safety or well-being or that of a relevant child. They protect the 'Applicant' from harm from the 'Respondent'. This is often after the Applicant or their child has been harmed by the Respondent.

They are also called 'relative' non-molestation orders or just 'molestation' orders.

You can avoid having a full hearing by agreeing on joint undertakings not to harass, intimidate or harm each other. The order or undertakings last for a set timeframe, somewhere between 3 to 12 months, sometimes longer.


The Family Law Act 1996: Section 42 (1) states: In this Part, a “non-molestation order” means an order containing either or both of the following provisions—

  • provision prohibiting a person ( “the respondent”) from molesting another person who is associated with the respondent;
  • provision prohibiting the respondent from molesting a relevant child.


Examples of molestation

The Family Law Act 1996 does not define what molestation is. Here are some examples of molestation:

  • Social media posts that are damaging to the reputation of the Applicant.
  • Damaging property owned by the Applicant.
  • Sending naked pictures of the Applicant to third parties.
  • Acts or threats of violence.

Section 42 (2) states: The court may make a non-molestation order—

  • if an application for the order has been made (whether in other family proceedings or without any other family proceedings being instituted) by a person who is associated with the respondent or
  • if in any family proceedings to which the respondent is a party, the court considers that the order should be made for the benefit of any other party to the proceedings or any relevant child even though no such application has been made.

Who can apply for a Non-Molestation Order?

You can only apply for an NMO if you are associated with the Respondent. The definition of Associated Persons is set out in Section 62 of the Family Law Act:

  • If you are or have been or intended to be married or civil partners.
  • If you are or have been living together.
  • If you are or have been in an intimate relationship for a significant period.
  • If they are related to you (i.e. parents, stepparents, grandparents, former spouse, etc.).
  • If you are under 16 years old (with the court's permission).

Can I get an NMO against a work colleague?

You can't make an application against a friend or a work colleague unless they are an Associated Person, as described above (for example, you live in shared staff accommodation with the abuser, or your work colleague is harassing your child). If you have problems at work and do not feel you can discuss it with your line manager or HR department, speak to Acas for advice. If you are experiencing criminal harassment at work, you may also report this to the police.


To make an application for an NMO, you will need to submit Form FL401


What is a Non-Molestation Undertaking?

Where an Occupation order or NMO isn't granted, the Applicant and Respondent can give cross undertakings to the court. This doesn't mean either is admitting they have caused the other harm. It is used to ensure no harm can come to either in the future.

An undertaking is a promise not to do something, so by both the Applicant and Respondent giving a promise, they can't harm each other. This is an undertaking:

Notice

You, APPLICANT/RESPONDENT, may be held to be in contempt of court and imprisoned or fined, or your assets may be seized if you break the promises you have given the court.

Statement of understanding

I understand the undertakings I have given and that if I break any of my promises to the court, I may be sent to prison or fined, or my assets may be seized for contempt of court.

Breaking that promise places you in contempt of court, and you may be sent to prison or fined, or my assets may be seized. In reality, if you break an undertaking in a minor way, the Court may choose to give a warning. Do it again, and you'll face the court's judgment.


What is included in a Non-Molestation Order?

Molestation isn't defined in the Family Law Act, so an order can cover a wide variety of actions that could cause physical, sexual or psychological molestation or harass the Applicant. The order may be expressed to refer to molestation in general, leaving no specific defined act, or it can reference particular acts of molestation or do both.

Here are some specific acts that may be included:

  • The Respondent will not use or threaten violence against the Applicant and will not instruct, encourage, or in any way suggest that any other person should do so.
  • The Respondent will not intimidate, harass or pester the Applicant and will not instruct, encourage, or in any way suggest that any other person should do so.
  • The Respondent will not telephone, text, email or otherwise contact or attempt to contact the Applicant (including via social networking websites or other forms of electronic messaging such as Skype, Whatsapp or Snapchat, except for legitimate business correspondence).
  • The Respondent will not distribute or post comments or videos that are damaging to the reputation of the Applicant (including via social networking websites or other forms of electronic messaging such as Skype, Whatsapp or Snapchat).
  • The Respondent will not damage, attempt to damage or threaten to damage any property owned by, or in the possession or control of, the Applicant and will not instruct, encourage, or in any way suggest that any other person should do so.

What happens if you breach a Non-Molestation order?

If the Respondent breaches an order, they commit a criminal offence. The Applicant can call the police, and they will arrest the Respondent. The defence for a breach is limited, and the court hearing can occur at the Magistrate or Crown Court.

How serious is breaking an NMO?

If the Respondent is found guilty, they face a fine and/or jail time of up to 5 years.


How long does a Non-Molestation order last for?

Commonly, NMOs last 3 to 12 months; however, this could be much longer in high-risk cases.


Section 42 (7) states: "A non-molestation order may be made for a specified period or until further order."


How much does it cost to get a non-molestation order?

Description
Cost Range (£)

Solicitor's Legal Fee - Application to court
Create a court bundle of evidence to submit to court, prepare witness statements (if required), have an initial meeting with counsel, and submit a court application. You can avoid this by making the application online yourself.

£2,000 - £3,000 INC VAT

Counsel Fee
Counsel will represent the applicant in court before the Judge (not typically your solicitor).

£1,000 to £5,000 INC VAT

Court Fee
There is no court application fee.

£0


Who pays legal fees?

  • Application to court legal fees. You can avoid these costs by making your application online. If you instruct a solicitor, you'll pay your own solicitor's legal fees.
  • Court fees. There are no court fees.
  • Counsel Fees. Most solicitors suggest getting counsel to represent you to the Judge at the hearing.

Do you need to get your abuser out of your shared home?

In extreme cases, you may also apply for an Occupation Order, which can enforce your right to remain in the property and/or temporarily revoke your abuser's right to enter the property, even if they are a legal owner.


How to report domestic abuse

You don't have to suffer in silence. Report any form of domestic abuse, as soon as it is safe to do so. If you need support escaping an abusive situation before you can report it, contact: Women's Aid, or Refuge for Women, Respect advice line for men, or Galop for LGBT+.

If it is not safe for you or for your children to stay in the house, you can leave a shared home temporarily and apply for an occupation order.

Domestic abuse or violence is a crime and should be reported to the police - other organisations can offer you help and support. Find out more at Gov.UK.


Frequently Asked Questions
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Andrew Boast of Sam Conveyancing
Written by:
Andrew started his career in 2000 working within conveyancing solicitor firms and grew hands on knowledge of a wide variety of conveyancing challenges and solutions. After helping in excess of 50,000 clients in his career, he uses all this experience within his article writing for SAM, mainstream media and his self published book How to Buy a House Without Killing Anyone.
Caragh Bailey, Digital Marketing Manager
Reviewed by:

Caragh is an excellent writer in her own right as well as an accomplished copy editor for both fiction and non-fiction books, news articles and editorials. She has written extensively for SAM for a variety of conveyancing, survey and mortgage related articles.


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