ACT - Domestic Violence and Personal Protection Orders

 

What are Domestic Violence (DVO) and Personal Protection Orders?

Protection orders are orders made under the Domestic Violence and Protection Orders Act 2008 that provide a quick and flexible method of obtaining legal protection from many forms of violence, for example:

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Physical abuse, e.g. using physical force

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Sexual abuse, e.g. forced sexual activity

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Psychological abuse, e.g. humiliation, intimidation

 

The orders not only seek to protect those people who experience violence but also those who may have cause to fear violence. They protect the applicant by ordering the respondent not to engage in conduct that amounts to domestic or personal violence.

It is an offence to breach a protection order. The maximun penalty is $55,000 or 5 years imprisonment or both.

 

Grounds for applying for a DVO

You can apply for a DVO if:

1. If you (applicant) live with; used to live with; are married to; are related to by blood; or were or an in a domestic relationship with.

2. The respondent has engaged in any of the following acts against you:

  • physical or personal injury
  • sexual assault
  • stalking or acts of indecency
  • damage to your property
  • trespass or burglary
  • negligent, reckless or culpable driving
  • harassment or offensive conduct, or
  • threats of any of the above.

The order can also include your children if they have experienced similar conduct, or if they are at risk of exposure to such conduct.

How to apply

An application can be made to a Magistrates' Court by:

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You

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A solicitor, friend, support worker who is authorised by you

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A police officer

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A parent/guardian (for children)

The application can be hand written at the court. It is useful to bring a photograph of your partner with you to help the police serve the documents.

You need to complete an application and an affidavit along with an information sheet.

Does it cost me anything to apply for an order?

The Court does not charge any fees for making an application for a protection order. However, you should be aware that the Court may order you to pay another person's expenses incurred as a result of your application if the Court considers your application to be frivolous, vexatious or not to have been made honestly.

After hearing evidence, a Magistrate can make an urgent (or interim) order for up to ten days, or longer in some circumstances. During this time your partner is served with the documents. You both then attend the court at a later date for a conference. At this stage you can apply to extend the order for up to two years. If you feel unsafe at the court talk to the staff and they will make suitable arrangements for your safety.

Types of order

Various orders can be made. For example, an order can:

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Prohibit contact with you at home or work.

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Limit contact (for example, when the other person is drunk).

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Prohibit acting in an offensive manner.

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Prohibit damage to property.

The order can be written to suit your situation.

Breaching an order

The order is a civil order but breach of an order may be a criminal offence. Contact the police immediately on 13 14 44 if there is breach of this order. If the police are satisfied that the respondent has breached the order, the respondent may be charged with a criminal offence. If they are convicted then they will have a criminal record.

Protection orders and child contact

Under the Family Law Act, all state and territory orders are described as family violence orders. Such orders may forbid one parent from coming within a set distance of another parent or stalking or harassing them.

Sometimes the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court makes an order or an injunction that is inconsistent with the state or territory order (see Sections 68P and 68Q of the Family Law Act). Under the Family Law Act, family violence orders can allow parties to come into contact with each other only for:

  • delivering or collecting a child who is spending time with a parent or other person (as provided by the Family Law Act), or

  • enabling parties to attend family counselling, family dispute resolution, a family consultant meeting or other court events during family law proceedings.

Where there is a protection order in place, or one is needed, difficulties can arise for people who also have residence/contact orders through the family law system. If a court makes a residence/contact order that conflicts with a protection order, the residence/contact order takes priority. The protection order will still stand, but any part that is inconsistent will be over-ruled by the residence/contact order.  

For example, if you have a contact order that gives the father contact on weekends but the protection order only allows contact between the father and child on Saturday, you have a conflict about contact on Sunday. The contact order will over-rule the protection order and contact will happen for the entire weekend.

This situation can weaken the protection order and also make it more difficult for the Police to enforce.

Protection orders can be modified by the court to take into account the practical arrangements for contact. Alternatively, contact orders can be made to take into account protection orders, for example, by arranging for an independent person to be present during contact hand-over times.

A magistrate cannot usually make orders about children in relation to residence, contact and specific issues if there is any dispute between the parents. However, if a Woman applies for a protection order or a variation of her protection order, then the magistrate may at the same time make or vary the terms of her existing Family Court contact order to make it safer for her and the children when contact takes place. The magistrate can also discharge or suspend an existing Family Court order, if among other things, the magistrate is satisfied it would be too unsafe for the Woman or her children if contact continued.

If you have Family Court contact orders in place before you have a domestic violence protection order, try to seek legal advice about whether these laws apply to you before you apply for your protection order.

ACT Legal Aid Domestic Violence and Personal Protection Orders Unit

This Unit provides:

  • advice on the process of applying for an order and whether you have grounds to apply for an order
  • assistance with submitting an application
  • representation in court if you are applying for an interim order
  • assistance with application to extend, change or withdraw an order

Location: Ground floor, ACT Magistrates Court, Knowles Place CIVIC

Phone: 6207 1874

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