Have you recently received an Application for a Family Violence Intervention Order, or are you considering applying for one? It’s important to be aware of the relevant laws and the court process involved in these matters.
In this blog post, we will provide an overview of family violence intervention orders in Victoria.
Family violence intervention orders are governed by the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic) (the Act) and heard and decided by the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria (the court). These orders can be sought by an individual against a family member, which includes spouses, partners, relatives, children, or anyone else regarded as a “family member” by the applicant.
In many cases, the court will make an Interim Order at the initial hearing, even if the respondent is not present. Interim orders are designed to provide immediate protection to the applicant before the court has heard evidence from both parties.
To grant an interim order, the court must be satisfied on the balance of probabilities that it is necessary to:
- Ensure the safety of the affected family member.
- Preserve any property of the affected family member.
- Protect a child who has been subjected to family violence committed by the respondent.
Interim orders are made cautiously, as the evidence presented at this stage has not been thoroughly tested.
Final orders are made under section 74 of the Act. To grant a final order, the court must be satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the respondent:
- has committed family violence; and
- is likely to continue doing so in the future.
What is Family Violence?
The Act defines family violence as various forms of abusive behaviour, including physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, and economic abuse, as well as threats, coercion, and control that cause fear for the safety or wellbeing of the family member or a child who is exposed to such behaviour.
The Court Process
Family violence intervention order proceedings typically involve several procedural hearings before a fully contested hearing takes place, during which each party gives evidence and has the opportunity to cross-examine the other party. Here is an overview of the main stages in the court process:
- First Mention: At this initial hearing, the parties indicate whether they wish to pursue or oppose the application. If the respondent opposes the application, the matter will likely proceed to a directions hearing.
- Directions Hearing: The court uses this hearing to identify areas of dispute, explore settlement possibilities, and determine the length and requirements of a potential final hearing. The applicant may be required to provide further particulars of their application, and the respondent can respond to these particulars.
- Final Hearing / Trial: This is the main hearing where both parties present evidence, including any witnesses. Each party’s lawyer has the opportunity to cross-examine the other party. After hearing the evidence, the magistrate will determine whether a final order is necessary, specify the conditions of the order, and set its duration.
Resolving the Matter
During any stage of the proceedings, the following options are available to resolve the matter, provided both parties agree:
- Consent Order: The respondent can agree to the order without admitting the allegations. While a final order is not considered a criminal matter, if you breach any of the terms of an order, you can be charged and serious consequences imposed.
- Undertaking: The respondent can provide a formal, written promise to the court to follow specific conditions, often in line with the interim intervention order. Breaching an undertaking can lead to the application being brought back before the Court, but it does not in itself result in criminal charges.
- Withdrawal: The applicant can choose to withdraw the application at any time.
If you have questions about family violence intervention order proceedings or require legal representation, we are here to help. Our experienced team can provide guidance and representation at any stage of the process. Contact our office to discuss your situation and receive personalised advice tailored to your circumstances.