The police continue to respond to family violence matters as a priority during COVID-19.
If you, a child or another person are in danger, please call the police on 000.

All Magistrates’ Court venues remain open and available during COVID-19, particularly in relation to the safety of family members and children.

For more information on COVID-19 & Family Violence click here

To make an appointment with one of our lawyers click here

Umbrella-Family-Violence

What is Family Violence?

Understanding this is an important place to start.

Often people think that family violence means physical abuse, and as a result, don’t always identify that what they, their children or loved one are experiencing is actually family violence.

People also sometimes call family violence, “domestic violence”. In Victoria the language we use is family violence and the relevant legislation is the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (“the Act”).

The definition of family violence is very broad and is not limited to physical abuse. Under the Act, family violence includes any behaviour that is used to control, threaten, force or dominate a family member through fear. The behaviour could be:

  • Physically or sexually abusive
  • Emotionally or psychologically abusive
  • Economically abusive
  • Threatening
  • Coercive
  • Controlling or dominating in any way, causing the family member to fear for their safety and wellbeing, or fear for the safety and wellbeing of another person.

Any type family violence behaviour (or combination of behaviours) is harmful.

If you are unsure what family violence behaviours may look like, we have put some practical examples here.

Family violence also includes behaviour by a person that causes a child to hear, see or otherwise be exposed to the effects of any of the behaviour listed above. For example, if a child helps an abused family member in any way, sees damaged property, is exposed to conflict or threats, or is present when the police attend.

If you are experiencing family violence, you or the Police can apply for a Family Violence Intervention Order for your protection. If you have children, they can also be included on the order. You can find information on what a Family Violence Intervention Order is here.

Some practical examples of family violence behaviours:

Physical violence

  • Hitting, punching, pushing, pulling, kicking, choking

Sexual violence

  • Pressuring someone into sexual acts; rape
  • Pressuring them to watch or join in pornography

Property damage

  • Breaking or damaging someone’s property or belongings, including jointly owned property or belongings

Economic abuse

  • Controlling someone’s money against their will
  • Forcing someone to pay or give money to others or taking your money
  • Stopping someone from working
  • Forcing or tricking someone to take on debts

Emotional, social or psychological violence

  • Making someone feel that no one cares or will help them
  • Making someone fear their safety
  • Taunting someone about sexuality or gender identity
  • Sending abusive messages via phone, email or social media or monitoring what someone does online

Threats

  • To harm people (including themselves), property, or pets
  • To take children away or to have them taken by others, such as immigration authorities or Child Protection Services
  • To disclose someone’s sexuality or gender identity
  • To post or send images held on a phone or device

Coercing, controlling, dominating or terrorising

  • Intimidating, bullying, frightening
  • Controlling where someone goes, what they wear or eat, when they sleep, who they can see
  • Stopping someone from seeing or speaking to others
  • Withholding mobility aids or disability equipment
  • Withholding medication

Who is a Family Member?

Family violence has a broad definition and so does the meaning of family member under the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (“the Act”).

A family member can be:

  • A person who is, or has been, the relevant person’s spouse or domestic partner
  • A person who has, or has had, an intimate personal relationship with the relevant person
  • A person who is, or has been, a relative of the relevant person
  • A child who normally or regularly lives with the relevant person, or who has previously lived with the relevant person on a regular basis
  • A child of a person who has, or has had, an intimate personal relationship with the relevant person
  • Any other person who the relevant person regards, or regarded as, being like a family member. This will depend on the circumstances of the relationship.

A relationship may be an intimate personal relationship whether or not it is sexual in nature.

Common Questions about Intervention Orders

A family violence intervention order (FVIO) is a court order (a legally enforceable document) to protect a person, their children and their property from a family member, partner or ex-partner.

A FVIO may also be known as a domestic violence order, protection order, intervention order, or a violence restraining order in other states and territories.

Conditions are essentially the rules of the intervention order – what a respondent can or can’t do.

There are lots of different conditions that can be on an intervention order to stop a person from behaving in certain ways and keep the protected person/s safe. Children can also be included on the intervention order as a protected person.

For example, a respondent may be stopped from:

  • committing family violence against the protected person
  • intentionally damaging the protected person’s property or threatening to do so
  • attempting to locate or follow the protected person or keeping them under surveillance
  • publishing on the internet or by email or other electronic communication any material about the protected person
  • contacting or communicating with the protected person by any means
  • approaching or remaining within a certain distance of the protected person
  • going to or remaining within a certain distance of where the protected person lives, works or attends school or childcare
  • getting another person to do anything the respondent must not do under the order.

The applicant can also ask the magistrate to order the respondent to:

  • return the personal property of the protected person or a family member
  • return jointly owned property that allows the protected person’s everyday life to continue with little disruption
  • hand in any firearms or weapons to police
  • suspend or cancel any firearms authority, weapons approval or weapons exemption.

The applicant (it may be the police or the individual seeking protection) can choose as many conditions as they like from the list, depending on the circumstances and what is needed for protection.

The magistrate makes the final decision about what conditions are included in an interim or final order.

  1. The police can issue a family violence safety notice if you need immediate protection after they have attended an incident.
  2. The police can apply for a family violence intervention order for your protection (or to protect your children)
  3. You can apply for a family violence intervention order at any Magistrates’ Court in Victoria if you are over 18. If you have children and you fear for your children’s safety, you can include them on your intervention order application.
  4. You can apply for an intervention order at the Children’s Court if you are between 14 and 18 or applying for a child who is under 18 and they are not part of your application.

If you are making your own application, you can call your closest Magistrates’ Court to make an appointment.

During Covid-19 the court may give you additional instructions, which may include completing your application (available online) before you attend your appointment.

If you need any assistance with an application, please contact our office for an appointment.

If you, a child or another person are in immediate danger at any time, please call the police on 000.

If you would like to talk about what is happening and your family violence intervention options (including whether you should apply or whether police should apply) please contact our office to arrange an appointment time. We are here to help.

I have an intervention order and the respondent has breached it – what should I do?

Breaking the conditions of a family violence intervention order is serious. It is important you report any breach of an intervention order to police. If you are not in immediate danger, please contact the police member who has been assisting you or your local police station to report the breach. If you are or another person are in danger, call 000.

It is a good idea to keep records of any breaches of the intervention order conditions by:

  • Writing down what has happened, and recording the exact time and date if you can
  • Provide any evidence you have (for example, photos, Facebook posts, voicemails, videos, documents) to the police and your lawyer
  • Keep copies of your evidence in a safe place

A family violence intervention order application has been made against me – what can I do?

If an application for a family violence intervention order has been made against you (i.e. you are the respondent), the police will give you:

  • A copy of the application which will describe in detail what the applicant (the person applying for the order) says you have done
  • A summons, which includes details about the court hearing.

The police may also serve you with a family violence safety notice, an interim order, a warrant for your arrest or a final notice.

You need to go to court on the date on the summons or on your bail undertaking. An order can be made against you if you do not go to court.

Depending on the situation and the circumstances, being served with an intervention order application may be a confusing time.

There are a number of options for dealing with intervention orders. Please make an appointment with us so we can to talk about what has happened and your options.

COVID-19 & Family Violence

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is a stressful time with isolation, financial insecurity, housing insecurity and periods of quarantine together. However, it is no excuse for abusive behaviour or making family members feel unsafe.

Key points if you are experiencing family violence during COVID-19:

  • Nothing has stopped – you can still get help from police, family violence support services, housing and legal services. What has changed is how some organisations are delivering their services. For example, instead of face to face it may be by telephone. We are here for you.
  • There is an exception to the Stay at Home Directions for family violence – you can leave your home to escape harm, or the risk of harm.
  • The police continue to respond to family violence matters as a priority during COVID-19. If you, a child or another person are in danger do not wait, call the police on 000.

All Magistrates’ Court venues remain open and available during COVID-19, particularly in relation to the safety of family members and children. For example, if you need a family violence intervention order for protection.

Emerging experiences of COVID-19 specific family violence behaviours:

People who use family violence may increase their controlling behaviour during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. They may use the new rules about staying at home and social distancing as an excuse to increase their controlling behaviour. This might include:

  • stopping you from leaving the house to visit a doctor if you think you have coronavirus (or are otherwise unwell and needing medical care)
  • threatening to expose you or the children to coronavirus
  • forcing you or the children to stay outside the house when you do not want to
  • controlling who you speak to by phone or online
  • Taking your phone off you
  • Not allowing you to leave the house for permitted reasons (including to seek safety)
  • Withholding medication from you or the children

The new laws for COVID-19 do not stop you leaving your house to:

  • escape harm or the risk of harm
  • go to the police station
  • get support, accommodation and refuge if you need to move out of your home
  • go to court or to see a lawyer

Your overall health and safety is a priority. You do not have to stay in a house where you are at risk or your children are at risk.

The conditions of intervention orders are not altered by Covid-19. Intervention orders must continue to be complied with. If an intervention order has been breached, please report the breach to police.

Breaking the conditions of a family violence intervention order is serious. It is important you report any breach of an intervention order to police. If you are not in immediate danger, please contact the police member who has been assisting you or your local police station to report the breach. If you are or another person are in danger, call 000.

It is a good idea to keep records of any breaches of the intervention order conditions by:

  • Writing down what has happened, and recording the exact time and date if you can
  • Provide any evidence you have (for example, photos, Facebook posts, voicemails, videos, documents) to the police and your lawyer
  • Keep copies of your evidence in a safe place

If you have an interim intervention order in place, it will remain in place until your next court date (unless there is a different date specified on the order that it will end on, which is unlikely).

If you have a final intervention order – it will remain in place until the expiry date on the order.

If you need clarification on your intervention order (whether you are the applicant, respondent, affected family member or protected person), we invite you to contact our office.

If reading this has raised any concerns for you:

  • In an emergency, call 000
  • Otherwise, please contact us to make an appointment if you would like to talk about your options. We are here for you.

Other supports:

For anyone who needs it or knows someone who might. Anytime, but especially during this time.

Lifeline Australia: 13 11 14
Text Lifeline 0477 131 114 (available 6.00pm – midnight, 7 days a week)
Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636
Kids Helpline: 1800 551 80
Emergency: 000
Aboriginal Family Domestic Violence Hotline: 1800 019 123
Safe Steps Family Violence Response Line: 1800 015 188
Specialist LGBTIQ family violence service: 1800 LGBTIQ (1800 542 847)
The National Sexual Assault, Family and Domestic Violence Counselling confidential Helpline: 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732)
Mensline: 1300 78 99 78
Relationships Australia: 1300 364 277
National Disability Abuse and Neglect Hotline: 1800 880 052