I've been served with a Non-Molestation Order

If you have been unexpectedly served (this usually means sent by post but it may have been delivered by hand) a Non-Molestation Order (NMO) the first thing is to ensure that you read it carefully and comply with the order.

Even if you accept none of the allegations made, you are at serious risk if you fail to follow the order. Even if your ex contacts you and encourages you to break the Order, you must comply with it. A failure to do so risks you having a criminal record, a fine, further complications and even a prison sentence. You must also check details of the NMO and consider whether, how and when to contest it. Normally the NMO will give you a date and time to attend court and contest the order. If you are not seeing your children you should make an application to court to do so at the earliest opportunity. For this you will apply for a Child Arrangements Order using a C100 form  You will be the Applicant and your child's other parent will be called the Respondent.  

See more details under the section on Non-Molestation Orders under Domestic Abuse. 

What is a non-Molestation Order? 

It is an order, issued by the family court under Part IV of the Family Law Act 1996.  It is aimed at stopping harassment from a partner or ex-partner and applies to any children that a victim of the alleged abuse may have. A breach of such an order is considered a criminal offence in England and Wales law. If you receive a NMO, you will be called the 'respondent', and the person who applied for it is called 'applicant'. The applicant will have used Form FL401 to apply for the NMO. 

What will a non-Molestation Order stop me doing? 

All NMOs are different depending on your case. As the respondent the order will stop you harassing, pestering or abusing the applicant, it may prevent you communicating with your ex except through their solicitor, it may prevent you going near your ex’s home or your children’s school too. If you break this order you are in danger of being arrested and released on bail and eventually prosecuted. It is possible to go to prison for breaching a NMO. The order is valid from the moment you receive it. This may be by hand delivery, email or even WhatsApp. Delivery of a NMO is called ‘being served’. 

How can I remove an NMO? 

A NMO can be issued without your knowledge. This is called an "ex-parte" or "without notice" order. It means your ex has attended the court without your knowledge and convinced a judge that you are harassing, abusing, or pestering her/him and it must stop immediately. These are issued when the Judge thinks your ex's case is urgent. You must obey it from the moment you are aware of it. You will be given a date in a few weeks when you can appeal against it. If you do not attend this hearing the NMO will be issued without the court hearing your side.  If the court date is too close to receiving the order or has passed you must tell the court immediately so you can get an alternative date. 

If the judge decides the application is not urgent then you will get a court date and the NMO can only be issued against you after you have attended the court to contest the order and put your case. At the hearing, if your defence is good, it may be withdrawn, if not and it is approved there will be a time limit on how long the order lasts.   

If your circumstances change and the NMO is no longer relevant, only the applicant can ask for it to be removed using Form FL403. 

Can’t I just promise the court I won’t harass my ex? 

Yes. This is probably the best way of dealing with your NMO. Promises to the court are called ‘undertakings’. You can tell the judge you will make undertakings not to harass, or pester your ex (something you would do anyway), only attend your child’s school with an official invitation, and not go to her home. You must also tell the court you do not accept a false allegations made to obtain the ex-parte order (this does not stop you offering an understanding (promise) not to do anything that has been alleged or to abide by the terms of the sought-after NMO). 

The advantages of undertakings are that your ex must return to court to enforce them rather than them calling on the police to do it. Breaking an undertaking is not a criminal offence, which is not to say that you should break it, as your ex can re-apply and it will not reflect well on you if there are other subsequent proceedings in family courts. 

You may also ask the court to put in the order how you will arrange to see your child, and how communication will be established between you and your ex. for the future eg. the pick-up point, communication through WhatsApp and Zoom, travel arrangements for pick-up and return etc. Not all judges will do this and may insist on you making a formal application with a C100 form. This will delay your contact time with your child so you could ask the judge to order interim contact pending the outcome of your C100 application e.g. at a Children Contact Centre or with a relative. 

How do I see my child if I have an NMO? 

This depends on the NMO, and the criteria laid down by the court. If the judge refused to include in your NMO, how you can see your child when the order was made, you will have to go to court for a Child Arrangements Order using form C100. You can claim some help with court fees if you are on benefit of low waged by using form Ex160 and if you don't want your ex to know where you live you will need a C4 form. 

If you apply online you will find all these forms combined into the single application 

What happens if I break an NMO?

You can be arrested and go to prison. You will get a criminal record and or a fine and you may lose your job. 

Take care. Some vindictive ex’s may entice you to break the order by phoning you and telling you your child is ill or they won’t report you if you come to the home only for you to arrive and have the police waiting for you. Some ex’s will email, phone or text you to encourage you to reply and again break the order. 

How do I communicate with my ex if I have a NMO? 

Usually the order will tell you how. It maybe through your ex’s solicitor only, in which case all letters go via them. It may be by email, to ensure a paper trail of communication and it is likely to say you can only speak about arrangements regarding your child/ren. 

A good communication method is to use WhatsApp since you get the blue ticks so show your ex has received your message. Keep copies of your messages. 

What could delay my NMO hearing? 

Judges sometimes try and combine a NMO hearing with your Child Arrangements Order Hearing. This delays your NMO hearing which is supposed to take place within 2 weeks of an ex-parte order. If you can convince the judge this is not in the best interests of your child because, for instance, you have holidays booked, football matches to attend with your child or that your strong relationship will be harmed,  you can ask to keep the two hearings separate. 

Your ex may make additional  allegations that may be accurate, exaggerated, irrelevant or fabricated to the police who will start an investigation. The Family Court will then delay the NMO hearing until the police report is complete. This can become complex because the police will delay their investigation until the Family Court decide! If this happens to you, you will need to contact the police investigating officer and explain how urgent it is because the Family Court are waiting for the police report. A copy of your court paperwork may help speed up the process. Again, a judge may consider if you ask for interim arrangements such as supervised contact. 

Will past criminal offenses affect my NMO? 

Possibly. It depends how long ago they were and the charges/convictions. Any charges associated with violence or intimidation (ABH, GBH, affray), will affect the Judges opinion as will recent drugs charges, specially dealing. 

You can argue, if true, that if the offences were minor and, in your teens, that they were a reflection of a misspent youth and that you are now a reformed character. You will need to demonstrate this is true. 

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