This page answers some of the most common questions people have before speaking to one of our lawyers about their family violence matters. Click on the question below to be taken directly to the answer.
- What is family violence?
- My children and I need protection from my partner, or ex, or other family member.
- I have been served with a family violence intervention order paperwork – what do I do?
- I have been served with a family violence safety notice – what do I do?
- What is the difference between an Interim Intervention Order and Final Intervention Order?
- Should I contest a family violence intervention order?
- What if my ex contests my application for a family violence intervention order?
- Am I breaching a family violence intervention order?
- Is my ex breaching a family violence intervention order?
- Police applied for an intervention order on my behalf. Do I need my own lawyer?
- How do I change or cancel a family violence intervention order?
- How do I extend a family violence intervention order?
- Will a family violence intervention order stop me (or my partner) from seeing my children?
- What if a protected person does not follow an order for their own protection? Can they be “breached”?
- Are there any local support services?
What is family violence?
In Victoria, family violence is defined as behaviour towards a family member that is violent, abusive or threatening.
In addition to physical abuse or sexual abuse, it includes emotional or psychological abuse, such as repeated taunts, harassment or threats.
Is also includes other kinds of controlling or dominating behaviours, such as forcing someone to give up control of their assets or income, or preventing someone from keeping connections with friends and family.
Family violence may or may not be behaviour that is otherwise criminal.
A family member may be a current or former spouse or partner, a relative, or someone you are in an intimate personal relationship with.
You have a right not to be subjected to family violence and have a right to seek protection.
My children and I need protection from my partner, or ex, or other family member.
If you or your family are experiencing family violence, an application can be made for a family violence intervention order.
You can make an application on behalf of yourself and/or your children or police may apply on your behalf.
If you need urgent assistance, call 000.
I have been served with a family violence intervention order paperwork – what do I do?
If someone as applied for an intervention order against you, usually that application will be served on you as a summons.
The next court date is often very soon after the initial application so you should obtain legal advice promptly.
Some important information to look for on the paperwork:
- Is the application relating to “Family Violence” or “Personal Safety”?
- Is there just an application, or is there an interim intervention order annexed to the back as well? If yes, what are the conditions?
- When and where is the next court date?
- Is the Applicant a family member or a police officer?
- Who are the “Affected Family Members” or “Protected Persons” named on the application?
- Note the case number.
This information will be helpful for your lawyer to provide you with comprehensive advice.
I have been served with a family violence safety notice – what do I do?
A family violence safety notice has much the same effect as an interim intervention order.
The important pieces of information to look for on the notice are:
- What are the conditions?
- Who are the protected persons (or affected family members)?
- When and where is the next court date?
What is the difference between an Interim Intervention Order and Final Intervention Order?
More important than the difference between interim and final orders are their similarities — in either case a respondent is committing a criminal offence by contravening a condition on an order.
Both interim and final orders are serious.
Should I contest a family violence intervention order?
The answer is that it depends.
There may be allegations in the application that you disagree with or can disprove. It may be that there has also been bad behaviour from the person making the application. You have the right to have the evidence tested in court.
However, if the court decides that there has been family violence and an order is needed to stop family violence in future, a final order will be made regardless.
It is essential to go through in detail with your lawyer the background and facts so that you can get advice about whether any of your behaviour would be considered family violence and whether a court is likely to find an order is needed to stop that kind of behaviour from happening.
Family Violence Intervention Orders are serious matters and can have serious impacts on a person’s life and serious consequences if breached.
Family Violence Intervention Orders can also include a range of onerous conditions. Breaching any condition of an order is a criminal offence that can carry serious penalties.
It can be very helpful to have a lawyer provide you with advice and represent you in court to ensure that any conditions on an order are no more than is appropriate.
What if my ex contests my application for a family violence intervention order?
Your ex has the right to contest your application for a family violence intervention order and have the evidence tested at a Contested Hearing.
There will usually be at least two procedural hearings before a Contested Hearing, where a Magistrate will make directions about how long will be needed for the Contested Hearing and what evidence needs to be filed with the court.
It is a good idea to have a lawyer assist you to:
- Advise you about the merits of your application – what is a court likely to do?
- Obtain an interim intervention order with appropriate conditions.
- Attend a Directions Hearing to advise the court what evidence will be relied on.
- Prepare any witness statements you want to rely on.
- Go through the other side’s witness statements.
- Represent you at a Contested Hearing. Often family violence occurs only behind closed doors and the only witnesses will be the parties themselves. Unless a witness is an expert, it is usually not helpful to the court to have a witness that did not directly see or hear the alleged behaviour. H owever, if your ex wants to directly question you about your evidence they cannot do that personally and will need to get a lawyer.
Am I breaching a family violence intervention order?
It is a criminal offence to contravene a condition of a family violence intervention order so it is extremely important to know what you can and cannot do.
When you are served with an interim or final Family Violence Intervention Order, it is important to pay close attention to the conditions on the order – there is no one size fits all set of conditions.
There will be a condition not to commit Family Violence – Family Violence has a broad definition and includes a whole range of behaviours, not just physically or sexually abusive behaviours.
There may also be a range of other conditions regarding proximity to a person or address, use of social media or telephone, being under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, etc.
You also may or may not be in breach of an intervention order depending on any other orders or agreements regarding you or your children.
It is often the case that family violence matters also have related family law matters, such as parenting disputes or property settlements. It is important that you know whether or not the family violence intervention order includes exemptions for things such as attending mediation, or collecting the children from school, etc. If you are not sure, speak to a lawyer.
Is my ex breaching a family violence intervention order?
If you think that your ex is not following the conditions in a family violence intervention order, you should make a report to the police.
If you are not satisfied with the response from the police, it may be a good idea to speak to lawyer for a further opinion about whether there has been a breach. Your lawyer may then be able to assist you in accurately reporting the breach to police.
If there has been a breach:
- The police may bring criminal charges.
- You may want to consider applying to vary the conditions of the order, particularly if the breach is exposing you or your family to further family violence.
- You may want to apply to extend the intervention order for your family’s ongoing protection.
Police applied for an intervention order on my behalf. Do I need my own lawyer?
If a member of Victoria Police applies for a family violence intervention order on your behalf, then a Police Prosecutor will appear in court in support of the Application.
As a protected person, you can express your views to the Police Prosecutor or, if available, a Family Violence Liaison Officer.
The advantage to having the police running the application is that you can avoid incurring your own legal costs. The disadvantage is you will have less control over the decision-making.
You may want to substitute yourself as the applicant and arrange your own legal representation. You can speak with a lawyer to get advice about this option.
How do I change or cancel a family violence intervention order?
A Family Violence Intervention Order can be changed or discharged by agreement (with permission from the court) or upon an application by the Applicant, Protected Person or Respondent.
Even if there is agreement to revoke an order, it will still be a criminal offence to breach a condition of the order until the court has agreed to revoke the order.
If you want to change or cancel an intervention order against you, you will need to convince the court about a number of matters to get permission to bring the application. You should get legal advice about this.
If you are a Protected Person and want to change or revoke an order, the court must still consider your safety and can refuse to revoke an order.
How do I extend a family violence intervention order?
A Family Violence Intervention Order can also be extended by agreement or upon an application by the Applicant, protected person, or member of Victoria Police.
The application must be made before the expiry of the previous final order. If an application to extend an order is contested, an interim extension order may be made until the matter is resolved or has a contested hearing.
Will a family violence intervention order stop me (or my partner) from seeing my children?
It depends – who are the protected persons? What are the conditions? Are there any other orders about parenting arrangements?
Family violence intervention orders are about protecting people from family violence behaviour of their family members.
Family violence intervention orders are not parenting orders or child protection orders. However, they may include children as protected persons and may include conditions that prohibit a person from communicating with or going within a specified distance of a protected person.
Even if children are named as protected persons and there are conditions prohibiting contact, an order will often include an exemption which permits a respondent to do anything permitted by a written parenting agreement, family law order or child protection order, provided the respondent does not commit family violence while doing so.
A family violence intervention order does not stop a respondent from applying for parenting orders in the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court.
What if a protected person does not follow an order for their own protection? Can they be “breached”?
The conditions of a family violence intervention order apply only to the respondent. A protected person cannot be charged with a criminal offence for not complying with a condition on an order for their protection.
If a protected person is engaging in behaviour that contradicts the need for the protection of an intervention order, you should consider getting legal advice about whether an application can and should be made to vary or revoke the order.