Fundamentally, a non-molestation order protects the individual who made the application by preventing an abuser from using or threatening physical violence, intimidating, harassing, pestering, and communicating with their ex, or instructing, encouraging, or suggesting any other third party to do so. Although this type of order can also be made to protect children of the family, in most cases, it generally concerns an ex-spouse or partner.

If there is no prohibitive part of the order preventing a parent from having any direct contact with their children, then they can do so. However, the practicality of the situation is likely to make arrangements more complicated when a non-molestation protects the parent with care.

Can I still have contact with my child if there is a non-molestation order against me?

If there is a non-molestation order in place protecting the parent with whom the child lives, then contact can become problematic to arrange and co-ordinate. Logistics become increasingly complex and may involve third parties who do not wish to have any contact with the individual themselves. This may be further complicated by the parents only being able to plan within the limitations imposed by the non-molestation order. Again, this may be via third party intermediaries who are reluctant to be involved. A solicitor can also make representations on their client’s behalf and put forward suggestions for maintaining contact with the children.

If the non-molestation order is silent as to arrangements for the children or negotiations between solicitors have not yielded satisfactory results, either party can apply for a child arrangements order to deal with the issue.

It is important to remember that non-molestation demands are stringent and should be adhered to. If you wish to see your child, you must abide by the non-molestation order and any other conditions imposed by it. If a breach occurs, then the individual can be arrested and taken to court. A fine can be handed down, and for serious or repeated breaches, a period  of imprisonment.

How can I arrange contact with my children when there is a non-molestation order in place?

Sometimes, these types of orders run alongside child arrangements proceedings which will address the issue of contact. Careful consideration must be given when drafting child arrangements orders to ensure they do not conflict with the terms of the non-molestation order, as it could cause an unintentional breach.

It is common for non-molestation orders to have restrictions on communication. So whilst someone may not be able to see their ex, they may also be prevented from contacting them via text or email, which will obviously be important in arranging contact. A solicitor can help negotiate a suitable pattern of contact and ensure the appropriate safeguards are in place to prevent a breach occurring.

If younger children are involved, this arguably further complicates the matter, especially if the protected partner is their main carer. Although not an insurmountable problem, it does factor in the use of third parties and their willingness or availability to help facilitate contact.

Third party help may include:

  • Friend/family member acting as an intermediary between the parties to make arrangements for contact. Obviously, this method can be long-winded, and possibly open to miscommunication/misunderstandings
  • Friend/family member, taking the children to and collecting them from contact. The downside to this option, is that it depends on the availability of the third party.
  • Contact/handovers at a contact centre or local authority centre. Here, the children can be dropped off first by the protected party and collected after the other party has left. If the other party’s contact does not have to be supervised, then they can use the contact centre as a handover point. The downside to this option is that contact centres tend to be run by charities, with not every area having one at their disposal. Where they do, the waiting list is extremely lengthy and there are costs involved which vary between centres.
  • A family member/friend of the respondent deals with handovers. Again, availability may be an issue.

How can I manage child contact when there is a non-molestation order in place?

Handovers should be arranged in such a way that removes, or at the very least, limits contact with the protected party. For example, can the children be collected from school, nursery, or another organisation? Can a friend or family member help with this?

Think about setting up an email account for communication. Care should be taken here, particularly if the non-molestation order prohibits any type of contact between the parties. Third party help may be required, although this is likely to complicate arrangements. Here, a communication book may be useful to exchange information about the children, which will reduce the need for communication between the parties, and limit misunderstandings.

Both parties may find it helpful to keep a diary, or some other sort of record, about what happens and when. This could be useful in court as it will contain clear accounts of any incidents as an when they arise.

Communicating through the children should be avoided if possible as this will only lead to misunderstandings, drawing them unnecessarily into the centre of their parents conflict

Can a non-molestation order be contested?

Because non-molestation orders can be made “without notice”, an affected individual may not initially be aware of the application until they are served with the order. In cases where a non-molestation has been issued unfairly, it may be possible to defend its terms. Advice should be obtained as soon as possible after receiving the court documents because there is only a brief window between the granting of the without notice order and the next hearing.

During the life of a non-molestation order, including those made without notice, individuals must comply with its terms even if the order is being contested. Breaching a non-molestation order whilst contesting it will not only reflect badly on the individual concerned whilst building a case to defend its terms, but it is also a criminal offence.