Chapter Three provides information about Family Violence Intervention Orders and how legal support can add to a victim survivor’s safety.
Q&A – Family Violence Intervention Orders
The following are the questions most commonly asked by regional stakeholders about family violence intervention orders.
To print the Q&A, click here.
- A family violence safety notice can be issued by police when they attend a family violence incident. In effect, it is the application for an intervention order and leads to a court hearing. In practice, most family violence safety notices are automatically made into an interim intervention order or possibly a full intervention order (based on police evidence) at the first court hearing. The family violence safety notice is only valid until it comes to court.
- The court can include any conditions on an intervention order that it considers ‘necessary’ or ‘desirable’ in the circumstances. This gives the court the flexibility to tailor an intervention order to the specifics of the case before it.
- In practice, most intervention orders conditions are chosen from a pre-defined list which also appears on intervention order application forms. These include conditions that the respondent must not:
- commit family violence against the affected family member(s) (this is a standard inclusion)
- intentionally damage the affected family member’s property or threaten to do so
- attempt to locate or follow the affected family member or put them under surveillance
- publish material on the internet about the affected family member
- contact or communicate with the affected family member by any means
- approach or remain within a specified distance of the affected family member
- go or remain within a specified distance of the place(s) the affected family member lives, works or studies
- get another person to do anything the respondent must not do.
- Workers can assist affected family members in an intervention order application by encouraging them to highlight how family violence is a risk to their safety. When making a decision about whether to grant an intervention order, magistrates focus on information relating to safety so this information must be clear.
- When it comes to listing previous incidents of family violence in the application, it is better to start with the most serious incident rather than completing incidents in date order. It is also important to include the most recent incident to highlight the ongoing nature of the family violence. Avoid including any incidents that don’t focus on the issue of safety.
- When giving examples of instances of family violence, include as much detail as possible (e.g. number of times, what exactly happened, when it happened). Avoid broad emotional statements without specifics (e.g. he abuses me).
- It is useful to encourage affected family members to keep a diary of incidents as this can aid their memory and strengthen the intervention order application.
- Intervention orders protect the person or people named on the order, as affected family members. Children can be included on their mother’s order.
- Magistrates will enquire about any children who may have been affected by the family violence and may make orders protecting them if needed.
- Intervention orders do not determine the parenting arrangements for a child, although they can impact parenting arrangements. For example, the intervention order may prevent a respondent from living, spending time or communicating with a child; however these conditions can be overridden by a family law parenting order.
- Many intervention orders have exceptions to the conditions on the order to enable contact with children where there is a written agreement in place (e.g. an agreement via text or email or a written parenting plan).
- An intervention order that protects a child can be applied for by the police, a parent of the child, or a person authorised by a parent of the child. In limited circumstances, children over the age of 14 years can apply for an intervention order for themselves.
Also refer to the ‘Intersections with Family Law’ Q&A.
- An intervention order, whether it is an interim or final intervention order, only becomes effective once it is served on the respondent. Normally this is done by the police or a court staff member giving a copy of the order directly to the respondent. If the respondent is in court when the magistrate makes the order the intervention order is considered served.
- Where the intervention order cannot be personally served on the respondent, the police will provide information to the magistrate about measures they’ve taken to serve the intervention order. Sometimes a magistrate will adjourn the hearing if the respondent hasn’t been served. If at the next hearing the order has not yet been served, an order for a substituted service may be made by the magistrate, which allows for the order to be served by another method (e.g. to a respondent’s workplace).
- Cross-application is the term used where both the respondent and the affected family member apply for orders against each other.
- The court will want to hear both applications at the same time if possible, to streamline the process and to ensure that any orders made are compatible with each other.
- The rules for a cross-application are the same as for a single order – the person named as the respondent must comply with all the conditions on the order. If the affected family member breaches the intervention order taken out against them in the cross-application, then they could be subject to criminal charges.
- Respondents to an intervention order sometimes use a cross-application as a strategy to embarrass, frustrate or harass the affected family member. This is an abuse of the court process and an application can be made to have the cross-application struck out as vexatious or frivolous.
- If the respondent was not at court on the day the order was made, the police will service the order on the respondent, usually within a day or two. The police will not necessarily notify the affected family member when service has taken place.
- An affected family member can call the police or the court to confirm that an intervention order has been served.
- Most intervention orders are for a specified period, often for 12 months. They can be made for shorter or longer periods, including an indefinite order that does not have an expiry date.
- When the intervention order expires, the respondent is no longer required to comply with it from midnight on the date it expires.
- If an intervention order is due to expire and there is still a risk of violence, it is best to apply to extend the intervention order. This can only be done before the intervention order expires, and ideally should be done a few weeks before expiry. The court can extend the intervention order on the same conditions or on different conditions.
- Breaching an intervention order – even in a minor way – is a criminal offence and a police report should always be made if a respondent breaches an intervention order. The police should respond and take action, although they have discretion about whether or not to charge the respondent, and they may not have enough evidence to do so in a particular case.
Also refer to ‘What is the process to provide feedback or make a complaint about police response?’ in the ‘Victoria Police Response’ Q&A.
Intervention Orders and Legal Support on the NIFVS website has more information including resources on how to get and respond to intervention orders.
NIFVS Service Directory provides a list of legal services, courts, specialist family violence services and other relevant services.