Under the Family Law Act 1996, the court has the power to make orders, which are intended to protect those who seek the assistance of the court.
Non Molestation Orders
A non-molestation order prevents the threatening of violence against the person who has applied for protection for themselves and/or their child(ren). A non-molestation order can also include the prevention of intimidating, harassing or pestering behaviour.
An order will be made if the court feels it is necessary to ensure the health (including physical and mental health), safety and wellbeing of the applicant and/or their child(ren).
The court also has the power to make occupation orders where an associated person (which includes people who have been married, in a civil partnership, engaged or have lived together) needs additional protection in respect of their accommodation. An occupation order allows the Court to decide who should live, or not live, at the home or any part of it.
The court can attach a power of arrest to a non-molestation and/or occupation order.
An occupation order is regarded as a draconian remedy; an application should not be used lightly because the potential orders can be quite extreme, preventing a person from returning to live at their former home and even going within a certain distance of it. Sometimes the court may instead regulate the occupation of a property, for example set out a timetable including when each occupier will have access to certain rooms so the property is shared but any contact is limited.
An order will also be time limited, normally for six or twelve months, during which time it is hoped that the parties will be able to make long term arrangements for their respective accommodation.
Where there is concern as to how an individual will react on being notified that an application has been made to the court for a non-molestation or occupation order, it is possible to apply on an ‘ex parte’ basis – without notice. This means that there is a hearing which the other party does not attend at which the court may make short term orders to hopefully provide protection for a short period between then and when a further hearing will take place to decide whether the orders should continue.
If you or a child are at risk of harm, including emotional harm, as a result of the behaviour of your former partner or spouse, the Family Team at Thomson Snell & Passmore LLP will be able to talk through matters with you and explain the options in more detail.