Applying For A Family Violence Intervention Order
Intervention Orders are mainly intended to protect people from family violence. Family violence is behaviour between family members that causes fear. It includes emotional and financial abuse, as well as physical violence and sexual abuse.
Call the police
Victoria Police must respond to all reports of family violence.
The police may apply for an Intervention Order for you by either phoning or faxing the Magistrates’ Court. An interim order is a short-term order to protect a person from family violence until a magistrate can hear all the evidence and make a final decision.
If the police apply for an intervention order they will also handle the court hearing. You still have to go to the court hearing and may have to give evidence.
They may also charge the violent person with a criminal offence.
Police approach varies
The approaches taken by individual police officers and different police stations vary. If possible, write down the name of the police officer who attends and their police station, in case you need to follow up with them later. If you’re unhappy about how the police have handled it, use the complaint procedure.
The domestic violence support service in your area may be able to help you in dealing with your local police.
Get a court order
You can apply for an Intervention Order yourself through the Magistrates’ Court (or Children’s Court if you’re under 17).
You will need to:
- talk to the court registrar.
- fill in an application form.
- provide information about the people included in teh application and the respondent.
Intervention Orders can also protect your children if you include this on your application.
Before going to the Court Hearing
To prepare for your hearing if you have applied for a family violence intervention order you should:
- get legal advice.
- organise your evidence and witnesses to support your application.
- let the court know if you are concerned about your safety at the hearing.
- let the court know if you can’t attend the hearing.
The Court Hearing
What happens at the hearing depends on how the respondent chooses to respond to the intervention order.
- agree to an intervention order being made.
- ask for an undertaking instead of an order.
- argue against the order.
- ignore the summons and not go to Court.
If the respondent want to fight the intervention order, the magistrate will set another hearing date to hear the arguments at a contested hearing. This is when the magistrates hears all the evidence from both parties including witnesses. It won’t be for at least 28 days after your first court date.
It is important to be prepared for your court hearings.
- Get medical treatment if you need it.
- Use a domestic violence support service.
- Get legal advice before the hearing day.
- Think about what sort of order you need and how it will work in practice.
- Make sure you have all the information you need to give to the court.
- Keep a diary of continuing violent behaviour or harassment, noting the time, date and place.
Get legal advice first
It’s a good idea to get legal advice, especially if there are children involved or the defendant is planning to oppose the order. A lawyer can tell you:
- how to apply and prepare for the hearing.
- what to do about family law issues.
If you don’t understand what the lawyer says, ask questions. If you still don’t understand, say so!
You can get free legal advice from Victoria Legal Aid or a community legal centre. Some courts also have legal help available.
This isn’t essential, but if you do have other sorts of evidence, tell the registrar and the magistrate:
- Witnesses: Occasionally other people will have seen or heard what the defendant did. They must have seen or heard something themselves, not just rely on what you or someone else told them.
- Photos: You may have photos of injuries caused by the defendant.
- Letters or other papers: Take any written material showing threats or intimidation, including e-mail messages or answering machine tapes.
- Medical evidence: A doctor’s report describing physical injuries is good evidence. If the defendant is opposing the order, you may also need to bring the doctor to give evidence in person. Ask the court registrar about this.
- Police statements: If the police were called and took a statement from you, they should have given you a copy of this. The police themselves won’t usually come to court. If you think it’s important to have them there to give evidence, you would have to summons them to court. Ask the court registrar how to do this.
How to prove you need an order
Your evidence will show the magistrate why you need an Intervention Order. When you make your application, give the court registrar as much of this information as you have. Too much is better than too little.
Your account of what has happened is the most important part of your evidence. Even if you have no other evidence, you can still get an order based on what you tell the magistrate. At the first hearing before the magistrate, you will be asked to go into the witness box, swear an oath (or an affirmation) to tell the truth, and tell the magistrate in detail, step by step, what happened and why you’re afraid it could happen again. Start with the most recent and most serious abuse. It’s a good idea to write down what you want to say before you go to court, so that it’s all clear in your mind.
Help at court
It’s a good idea to take someone with you when you go to see the registrar, to help you tell your story clearly and to help you remember what the registrar says. This can be a friend, a domestic violence support worker or someone from Court Network.
Court Network volunteers give support to people at court and can make referrals to other community resources. They are not lawyers and can’t give legal advice, but they can tell you about court procedure. You can ring them before you go to court.
You should go to the nearest Magistrates’ Court. You might prefer to go to one further away for safety reasons and you should explain this to the registrar at that court.Some courts will take your application, but will want you to go back to your nearest court for the final hearing. If you have a good reason for not going to your nearest court, you can insist on another court dealing with it.
It might take all day
Making an application can take a long time. It’s not just a matter of quickly filling in a form. You will be interviewed by the court registrar and you may have to go into the courtroom for the magistrate to decide whether to grant an interim (temporary) order. You will then have to wait for a copy of the order.
Ring for an appointment
If possible, ring the court beforehand and make a time to see the registrar. Tell the court staff if you need to see the registrar urgently.
If you or the defendant are going to need an interpreter for the court hearing, tell the registrar this when you apply for the order. You may also need help from an interpreter when the registrar interviews you.
Victims counselling scheme
If you apply for an Intervention Order you may be entitled to free counselling sessions with a psychologist, social worker or loss and grief counsellor. The Victims Referral and Assistance Service can provide you with information about legal, financial and emotional support. A listing of support services and counsellors is available.