Family Violence Intervention
Family & Relationship Law 27 June 2023

I have been served with a Family Violence Intervention Order – what now? What you need to know as a Respondent

If you have immediate concerns for your welfare and safety, or that of someone you know, please contact Victoria Police on 000 (for emergencies) or 131 444 (for all other enquiries).

A Family Violence Intervention Order (often referred to as an IVO or Intervention Order) is a court order to protect one person from another by placing obligations on this other person to not do any number of things. It is governed by the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic) (FVP Act).

An Intervention Order is a civil matter and not criminal. However, contravening an Intervention Order is a criminal offence.

If you have been served with an Application and Summons for an Intervention Order or a Family Violence Safety Notice, you should seek legal advice right away.

More general information about IVOs can be found here.

What is an Application and Summons for an Intervention Order?

A family member can apply for an Intervention order or Victoria Police can do so on their behalf. A family member can apply online or in-person at a local Magistrates’ Court of Victoria (the Court).

The Application and Summons will state who has applied for the Intervention Order (the Applicant) and who needs the Intervention Order (Affected Family Member(s) or protected person(s).

It will include the grounds for the application which set out what family violence is alleged to have occurred. It will also include a date for when the Respondent needs to attend court and which court they need to go to.

A Respondent may also be served with an Interim Intervention Order that has been made in their absence. Applications are initially considered by the Court before they are served. The Court will make an Interim Intervention Order if it considers it necessary to protect the Affected Family Member(s) from family violence or preserve their property.

What is a Family Violence Safety Notice?

Victoria Police can issue a Family Violence Safety Notice which acts as an application and an immediate interim Intervention Order. This notice is typically issued when Victoria Police are called and they reasonably believe an order is necessary for the affected family member(s)’ immediate protection.

Once a notice is issued the matter must be listed for a hearing at court within five (5) business days.

Interim Intervention Orders

It is important to understand that an Interim Intervention Order is made ‘on the face’ of the application. In other words, the Court may make an Interim Intervention Order without critically examining the grounds of the application or giving the Respondent an opportunity to have a say.

While this appears very unfair to the Respondent, it is how the system has been designed because the Affected Family Member(s) safety is paramount.

However, conditions on an Interim Intervention Order can be varied at the first mention date or any subsequent court date. This is one reason why it is so important to obtain legal advice as soon as possible

An Interim Intervention Order or Family Violence Safety Notice may include conditions that the Respondent MUST NOT:

  1. commit family violence against the protected person(s)/affected family member(s); and
  2. intentionally damage any property of the protected person(s)/affected family member(s) property or threaten to do so;
  3. contact or communicate with a protected person(s)/affected family member(s) by any means;
  4. approach or remain within a set distance of a protected person/affected family member;
  5. go to or remain within a set distance of protected person(s)’/affected family member(s)’ address or any other place where a protected person lives, works or attends school/childcare
  6. attempt to locate, follow the protected person(s)/affected family member(s) or keep him/her/them under surveillance;
  7. publish on the internet, by email or other electronic communication any material about the protected person(s)/affected family member(s).
  8. get another person to do anything the respondent must not do under this order.

In addition to these conditions, an Intervention Order may include exemptions allowing the Respondent to do something they otherwise would not be allowed. These exemptions may include:

  1. doing anything permitted by a Family Law Order, child protections order, or written agreement about parenting arrangements;
  2. counselling or mediation;
  3. communicating to the protected person(s)/affected family member(s) via a lawyer; or
  4. attending the family home to collect belongings in the presence of a member of Victoria Police.

It is crucially important that a Respondent does not breach any condition listed on an Interim Intervention Order or Family Violence Safety Notice.

Breaching any condition, however slightly, can carry serious criminal consequences.

Can I see my children when there is an Intervention Order Against me?

The answer may depend on whether your child or children are listed as Affected Family Member(s) and the conditions (including exemptions) listed on the Order or Notice.

If your child or children are listed as Affected Family Member(s), then you need to look at the conditions on the Intervention Order.

If ‘exclusion’ conditions are included –prohibiting contact, communication or going within a set distance – then you cannot see your children unless an exemption is included and applies. For example, an Intervention Order may include all the exclusion conditions but also include an exemption for a Family Law Order, child protection order or written parenting agreement.

With this exemption in place, a Respondent could contact the other parent (Affected Family Member(s)) to arrange or coordinate pick up and drop offs for the child or children providing that they do not commit family violence in the way they communicate. The Respondent could spend time with the child or children notwithstanding the children are Affected Family Member(s) provided they do not commit family violence when doing so.

For more information on how an intervention order impacts a Family & Relationship Law matter, click here.

Now what? Your options

The merits of any option will depend on the facts of the case. However, it is important to know what options may be available.

There are three broad options:

1. Contest the application:

If a Respondent denies the grounds of the application and the making of any Intervention Order then they can contest it.

If a Respondent contests the application, it will not be resolved at the first hearing or the second. The Court will case manage the matter with a series of procedural hearings before listing the matter for a contested hearing (also called a Final Hearing or Trial). Only at the contested hearing will the evidence be given formally and tested.

2. Consent to an order:

A Respondent can consent to an Intervention Order at any hearing. They can do so without admitting the grounds set out in the application.

In other words, they agree to abide by the conditions of an Intervention Order without agreeing they are necessary or agreeing that the events described in the application have occurred.

This is how most Intervention Order matters are resolved as a practical reality. The Affected Family Member(s) and Respondent can negotiate through lawyers about what conditions will be agreed to and then what is agreed is presented to Court.

An Intervention Order by consent without admissions is still a court order. As such, breaching the order still has serious criminal consequences.

3. Undertaking:

An undertaking is a promise that the Respondent makes to the Court to not commit family violence. An undertaking can include all the same conditions and exemptions that would otherwise be included on an Intervention Order.

If the Affected Family Member(s) (and the Police if the Police are the Applicant) consents to the Respondent giving an undertaking then the Court will dismiss the application.

An undertaking is not a court order and so it doesn’t carry the possibility of criminal consequences if contravened. However, if the Respondent breaches an undertaking then the Affected Family Member(s) may resume their application and the Respondent may be in contempt of court.  This includes a fine or a term of imprisonment.

How we can help

Our Family & Relationship Law Team at Coulter Legal are experienced in providing advice with respect to Family Violence Intervention Orders. Please do not hesitate to contact our office on 03 5273 5273 to arrange an initial consultation, free of charge, to discuss your personal circumstances and how we may assist you.

For more information on what you need to know as an Applicant or Affected Family Member, click here.

Sebastian Tottle.
Sebastian Tottle Associate Family & Relationship Law View profile
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