Non-Molestation orders: abused or abuser?
What are Non-Molestation orders?
It’s an unfortunately common scenario for our family solicitors to see fathers face false or exaggerated accusations of abuse and violent behaviour, as part of divorce proceedings. As such, quite often, non-molestation orders become a weapon to be used against men in a divorce.
A non-molestation order is an order preventing an ex-partner or ex-spouse from molesting the applicant or a relevant child. The term “molesting,” or “molestation,” can refer to violence, intimidation and harassment, which translates to the prohibition of contact in different forms.
Non-molestation orders are tools to protect the abuse victim, irrespective of their gender. However, in practice, it is the mothers that make most of these applications, which of course makes sense, since statistically women are more likely to be victims of domestic abuse.
Unfortunately, they can also be used as a weapon, when they are based on false accusations and are taken out with intention to create an environment that makes child contact difficult or impossible, or when the intention is to portrait the father as a violent person, a danger to the child.
We have seen many cases when a parent files non-molestation order, under false allegations, in the hopes of gaining better child arrangements and financial benefits in their favour. Such proceedings can leave devastating effects on your mental health and relationship with your children. Due to this, many men become silent victims, with their truth and side of the story never heard or given a fair hearing.
Consequences & Characteristics of Non-Molestation Orders
As a father, you may be facing false accusations of harming your children and/or your partner. Below, we have highlighted briefly some of the consequences and characteristics of non-molestation orders, when they are used in an abusive manner.
Using Children as “Weapon:” Your ex-partner or spouse can create false allegations against you, raising accusations of violent and cruel behaviour towards the children. In the process, your ex-partner may compel and manipulate your children to say that you hurt them or abused them. As the courts have a duty to protect children, and place your children’s welfare as the primary consideration, judges may be convinced that a non-molestation order is in the best interest of the children.
Spousal violence allegations Virtually every relationship has its bad moments and from either side there can be a toxic and somewhat abusive behaviour towards the other, on occasion. However, oftentimes, upon the breakdown of the relationship, these incidents can be exaggerated and presented in a one-sided way, so as to create a history of and abusive relationship, where the one making the allegations is the sole victim. Sadly, it is not uncommon, especially among women, to believe that by doing this, they can attain a better deal when it comes to finances and child arrangements.
Parental Alienation: There are cases, where your ex-partner might build terrible stories about you, in hopes of drawing your children away from you and isolating you from their lives. Things your ex-partner or spouse may say are, ‘Your father left us and doesn’t want to see us;’ ‘Your father uses drugs and is dangerous;’ ‘Your father is never coming back;’ and, ‘Your father has another family and doesn’t care about us.’ The statements are designed to actively “alienate” and separate you from the children who are taught to believe that no safe and real relationships can exist with you.
Non-molestation orders on basis of false allegations are absolutely heart-breaking. Your children may be convinced that any efforts to pursue a relationship with you is pointless, and ultimately, not in their best interest.
False allegations fulfill the desires of your ex-partner to terminate all contact with you, while sacrificing your relationship with your children. The objective of false claims is to raise concerns about your character and capacity to be a parent, and ultimately can damage your prospects of having a good relationship with your children.
What Is Domestic Abuse?
When discussing the subject of domestic abuse allegations, non-molestation orders etc, it is important to understand what constitutes domestic abuse. As family lawyers we are often seeing situations where the party does not recognise that they in fact have been abusive to their partner or, more heartbreakingly, that they have been abused.
Domestic abuse comes in many forms, and often, it can reveal itself in the most deceptive shape that has the air of being “normalised.” What this means is that on the surface, there are some actions that can easily slip under the radar of abuse. Because these actions have been exerted so many times on a person, one can come to expect abuse, and also, accept it as a “normal” part of their relationship and routine. Below are some examples of domestic abuse, which can be experienced by both men and women:
- Physical Abuse/Violence – Physical violence is an act attempting to cause harm, pain or inflict physical injury. Whether the force used is light or hard is not relevant, so as long as there is intention to inflict effects of harm to the other person.
- Sexual Abuse – Sexual abuse includes sexual acts against one’s will and/or without their consent or through coercion. To be clear, sexual acts during relationships including marriage, if not consented to still constitute a crime.
- Emotional Abuse – this can sometimes be more challenging to identify. Not every person is aware of their actions as emotional abuse, given that some find it difficult to separate abusive behaviours from their personality and making a distinction requires therapy and professional support. Example of emotional abuse can be controlling behaviour, which, in simple terms, involves a person dictating the activities and overall direction of your life. It can even be a pattern of behaviour and threats intended to humiliate or intimidate you on different levels, for the purpose of demanding obedience or compliance to their interests and needs. These can include: isolating you from family and friends, controlling your finances, depriving you of daily needs such as food, medical support, monitoring your activities and many more.
How To Deal With False Allegations of Abuse
Without a doubt, asking for help is not easy and can be an extremely stressful experience. If you have made significant efforts to access support, and are understandably frustrated from not receiving proper guidance, we encourage you to not give up but continue to fight, because resources and options are available for you.
As we guide you through some of these options, we would like to remind you that in many cases, it is not easy to identify who is the abuser and who is the abused. A more recent famous example of this would be the matter of Johnny Depp v Amber Heard. In fact, you may even find yourself having been abused and also participated in abusing your partner. But even so, allegations of abuse must be addressed in a proper manner. For this reason, it is important to identify what specific allegations your ex-partner is accusing you of, and how they are false in light of past behaviour.
Three Things You Can Do During an Investigation:
- Remain calm: An investigation may take place exploring any allegations brought against you. It is vital that you remain calm and cooperate. This is understandably difficult and may feel impossible when you are worried and confused. But your composure helps to show your honesty.
- Show evidence: You have the opportunity to gather evidence that prove the wrongful allegations. The examinations of evidence tackle any existing biases against fathers in courts:
- Loved ones: Part of your evidence may be to seek help from those who know you well and can speak on your behalf and character. These may be close friends or family who has seen your good relationship with your children. You can ask if your loved ones are okay with being interviewed or providing statements.
- Texts/Recordings: Other things you can do are to keep a collection of text messages and recordings of phone calls between you and your partner. This helps to show both sides of the argument and capture moments where your partner was lying.
- Activities with children: Maintain a diary of activities that show your close relationship with your children. Examples include photographs, cards the children made for you, any reports social services provided of your character from previous cases etc.
- Seek legal assistance: It is a good idea to consult with lawyers who have expert knowledge about family law matters and can assist you in filing applications.
Can Men be Victims of Domestic Abuse?
Unfortunately, our society is filled of myths stating that men do not, and even, “cannot” experience abuse. We often are faced with situations where fathers come to us for help to fight abuse allegations, for us to discover that they in fact have been abused throughout the relationship, often enough without even realising it.
For too long, social norms and the justice system has been guilty of privileging gender – a privilege that see the valuing of men and women differently based on varying issues. On the one hand, a critical light is already casted on the “male-centred,” patriarchal society that sees men predominantly holding positions of power. By virtue of men’s status, it is believed that men are active “natural” predators, whereas women are passive victims of prey.
But on the other hand, and rather ironically, when men face allegations of violence and abuse, the same society is quick to villify men, often with shaky evidence, and in the absence of a fair trial. As a result, we observe a system that perpetuates gender bias, where men are “guilty until proven innocent,” and in turn, the voices and “vulnerability” of women is privileged.
The biased treatment of fathers and mothers shoves men into oppressive spaces, preventing them from sharing their experiences of trauma and abuse. As many men do not feel they belong in this otherwise socially constructed feminised space of “victimhood,” toxic norms, culture and values inevitably silence men and interrupt their ability to access support and justice.
We understand the increasing pain you must be feeling and how hopeless these situations can leave you at times. The service we provide is built to tackle the greater challenges of family law and access to justice. You deserve the opportunity to demonstrate your commitment and ability to care for your children. Our values are aimed at helping you build meaningful ties with your children during the most important years of their lives.
How We Can Help You:
Family Law Team: Our experienced, and dedicated, family law team is qualified to assist you. No matter the complexity and length of your challenges, our team leads with a passion for meeting your needs and are committed to act as per your instructions. Our expertise assistance lies in the following family law matters:
- Non-molestation orders
- Father’s rights
- Alienation of parents
- Child arrangements
- Contact orders
- Prohibited steps order
- Specific issue order
To speak to one of our specialist father’s rights lawyers call 020 3372 5125 or email at email@example.com.