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A non-molestation order (or “non-mol”) is one of the court’s key powers to protect the vulnerable party in cases involving domestic abuse. These orders are available whether you have been married to your ex-partner or not. An application must be made on your behalf to the appropriate court.
If you require advice or representation on a non-molestation or occupation order, click below for a free initial consultation with one of our expert divorce solicitors.
Domestic abuse, often referred to as domestic violence or intimate partner violence (IPV), is a pattern of behaviours used by one partner to maintain power and/or control over the other in a relationship.
It can include, but is not limited to, the following:
The Serious Crime Act made controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship where the behaviour has a serious effect on the victim an offence. Coercive control has been a criminal offence since 2015. Importantly, the parties need to have been living together to fall under the legislation.
Below are examples of coercive control, which could entitle you to a non-molestation order:
A non-molestation order prevents the abuser from harassing or threatening you.
The provisions of the order can be specifically drafted to address your own situation.
Depending on the severity of your case, the non-molestation order can be drafted to prevent your spouse from contacting you, or going near you, or doing the same in relation to specified loved ones or staff.
The term of a non-molestation order will be set out within the order – they are usually granted for 6-12 months.
Terms longer than 6 months will only be appropriate in cases of severe, or long-term abuse. The applicant can apply to have the order extended, so long as the order has not expired, if they feel their safety would be put at risk when the order ends.
A non-molestation order only comes into force once it has been served on the person it binds. An individual cannot therefore breach a non-molestation order of which they are not aware. However, this means that in the event of breach, professed ignorance of the order is no defence.
If someone breaches a non-molestation order “without reasonable excuse”, that person is guilty of a criminal offence, and can face significant penalties. They can be arrested immediately, even if they have committed no other crime. Once an order is in place, your local police will be notified, so they can help protect you if it is broken.
On conviction, the Sentencing Guidelines dictate that the typical range of sentence for breach can vary from a fine to 4 years’ imprisonment, with a maximum sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment.
If the circumstances of the breach are characterised by any “aggravating factors”, the sentence can be even longer. These factors include, but are not limited to, the following:
Breach of a non-molestation order will also appear on both criminal records and permanent police records.
…Then the non-molestation order can also stop them from coming to your home.
But if any of the above does not apply to you, you will need to apply for an occupation order.
Occupation orders are very similar to non-molestation orders but deal specifically with who lives in a home. If they are breached, they carry similar penalties.
An occupation order is one of the court’s key powers in regulating the occupation of a property, usually the Family Home. It controls who lives in the home, and who has access. It can be used to exclude anyone who uses or threatens violence, as well as any perpetrator of psychological or sexual abuse. It can prevent them from entering, or approaching, or interfering in any way with the property’s occupation.
Occupation orders do not change the legal ownership of the Family Home, and are normally used to provide a short-term solution until decisions are made eventually by consent, or by court order, over who should own the property, or whether it should be sold.
Again, this order is available whether you have been married to your ex-partner or not
If a person breaches an occupation order, that person is in contempt of court. They can be brought before a judge and fined or imprisoned for breaching its terms.
If you feel at risk of imminent violence you should contact the police (dial 999).
It is possible to apply for an occupation order without notice to the other party, and on an urgent basis. Occupation orders can be obtained in a matter of a few hours if necessary, with the right legal guidance.
An occupation order can be drafted, and ready to be filed at court, in advance, for instance, in advance of any conversation about separation, or any divorce application, to ensure the applicant is safe and properly housed before starting anything.
Where a victim feel such orders are too strong, it is possible to agree undertakings (a solemn promise to the court). If an undertaking is broken, the breach still results in Civil “contempt”.
If you fear domestic violence, we can help you get these orders, alongside advising you on protecting yourself. We will advise you on the appropriate medical or psychological evidence which should be recorded in court while building up evidence in your case. As well as court orders, we can put you in contact with providers of specialist security so that you can have peace of mind in your home.
If you feel at risk of immediate domestic violence, please contact the police straight away (dial 999).
Please note, in circumstances where calling the emergency services might inflame the situation further, you can simply quietly press 55 once you have dialled 999, and the emergency services will go to the address from where you have called without you having to say anything.
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Though uncommon, false allegations of domestic violence can be extremely distressing. As leading family lawyers, Vardags can defend such claims while putting forward your case. Where false allegations are made before the court, the consequences can be very serious.
Under an occupation or non-molestation order you could be removed from your home or arrested by the police.
Such orders can also have a significant impact on your professional life or limit the time you spend with your children after separation. Vardags are experienced at dealing with such claims. We will ensure that the correct version of events comes before the courts, preventing false allegations from damaging your life or reputation.
Vardags’ in-house criminal defence experts can also help you should false allegations of domestic violence result in arrest or criminal charges. If you have been served with an ex parte order (where your spouse has already visited court without notifying you) we can help you present your case at the return date alongside getting any orders currently in place lifted.
The information on this website is intended as a guide and does not constitute legal advice. Vardags do not accept liability for any errors in the information on this website, nor any losses stemming from reliance upon the statements made herein. All articles and pages aim to reflect the legal position at time they were published, and may have been rendered obsolete by subsequent developments in the law. Should you require specialist advice, tailored to your situation, please see how Vardags can help you.