WHO CAN BE A RESPONDENT UNDER THE FAMILY LAW ACT 1996?
There is a common misconception that an applicant cannot obtain a non-molestation order against their ‘in-laws’, ie against a partner’s or former partner’s family members.
In fact, under the Family Law Act 1996, some in-laws are classed as relatives and therefore can be subject to a non-molestation order if they behave in an abusive or harassing way.
Section 63 of the Family Law Act says that a person’s relative can be ‘(a) the father, mother, stepfather, stepmother, son, daughter, stepson, stepdaughter, grandmother, grandfather, grandson or granddaughter of that person or of that person’s spouse, former spouse, civil partner or former civil partner‘ or ‘(b) the brother, sister, uncle, aunt, niece, nephew or first cousin (whether of the full blood or of the half blood or by marriage or civil partnership) of that person or of that person’s spouse, former spouse, civil partner or former civil partner’ [emphasis added].
Section 63 also adds that relatives include ‘in relation to a person who is cohabiting or has cohabited with another person, any person who would fall within paragraph (a) or (b) if the parties were married to each other or were civil partners of each other.’
This means that an applicant can obtain a non-molestation order against their partner or ex-partner’s family members if they are, or have ever been, married, in a civil partnership, or cohabiting.
Section 63 does not, however, include the family members of boyfriends, girlfriends, ex-boyfriends, or ex-girlfriends who have never lived together – even if the couple have a child together.
Where a non-molestation order is not available, an applicant can always seek an injunction under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. The two remedies have different rules and procedures so it is important to apply for the right order.
If you are being abused or harassed and need a court order for protection, Trinity Chambers are here to help.
Jessica Hunter Trinity Chambers 11th May 2020