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Leaving an abusive relationship - strategies to consider.

2c. Family Violence Restraining Orders – What they are and how to get one

Est. read time: 4 min

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What are Family Violence Restraining Orders?

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A family violence restraining order (or FVRO for short) is an order primarily designed to protect a person from being physically and/or psychologically abused by another person. The order prevents someone who is in a close family type relationship with you (i.e. current or former partner/spouse, family member) being able to communicate with you or visit you at home or your workplace. It can also prevent that person coming within a certain number of metres to where you may be at any time.

When there is a child or children involved, there are often exceptions made to the order to enable you to communicate with your former partner. Such exceptions can include but are not limited to:

  1. for the purposes of arranging for them to spend time with the children;
  2. to attend mediation or family dispute resolution to discuss arrangements for the children and ending your financial connection with that person and;
  3. to otherwise be able to communicate through lawyers.

How do I apply for a Family Violence Restraining Order?

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Applications for restraining orders can be made in person or online.  

Applications in person are made at your local Magistrates Court.  You will need to fill out an application form and the Court will need to hear evidence from you as to what has happened and why you fear that this behaviour will continue.  You can choose to have the first hearing without the Respondent (the person you are seeking to restrain) being advised until after your application has been heard.  You can have a support person with you in court.

You may also be able to seek a restraining order in the Children’s Court if the application involves children, and you are related or involved in a child’s care.

Applications online can only be made on your behalf by organisations that are approved to do so.  These include:

The Victims of Crime website contains details of organisations that are approved to assist in lodging restraining order applications online.

The Interim Family Violence Restraining Order Guide contains a lot of useful information about applying for a restraining order.

What does the court process involve?

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After making your application, you will be given a date and time to meet with a Magistrate to discuss the reasons that you are asking for the FVRO. This meeting will usually occur within 7 days of you making your application. Your former partner will not be informed of your application at this time. If you require an urgent FVRO to be made on the same day, you should file your application at the Central Law Courts in Perth.

Before attending the first meeting with the Magistrate, you should make a note of three or four key examples of family violence that you have been subjected to, which you can share with the Magistrate. The more information that you can provide, including when and where it happened, will make it easier for the Magistrate to get an understanding of what you are experiencing. See section 1e. Evidence collection for further information about how to best collect information before going to court.

When an FVRO is first made, it will be called an Interim FVRO or interim order. This means that the FVRO will remain in place until the Court has time to make a final decision about whether the order should remain in place or not. A copy of this order will be served on your former partner by the Police. Your ex-partner will then have 21 days to decide and inform the Court whether they object to the FVRO. If they do not object within 21 days, the Interim FVRO will become a Final FVRO and remain in place for the duration noted on the Order; this is usually 2 years, but can be shorter or longer.

If your former partner does object to the FVRO within the 21 day period, you will be notified of this by the Court and asked to attend a further meeting with the Magistrate. Your former partner will also be asked to attend this meeting. This meeting will usually occur two or three months after your ex-partner has filed their objection.

Depending on the Court’s availability, this meeting will either be a ‘Final Order Hearing Directions' or a ‘Final Order Hearing'. This will be written on the notice, or Summons, that you receive from the Court.

A ‘Final Order Hearing Directions' is not a final trial. At this meeting, you and your former partner will be asked whether you wish to proceed to a trial or whether, instead, you would both be willing to accept an Undertaking or Conduct Agreement. If you do accept an Undertaking or Conduct Agreement, these can be implemented on that day and there will be no need to go to court. If the matter goes to a trial, you will be asked whether you will be calling any witnesses. So before this meeting, you should consider whether there is anyone who has seen or heard your former partner committing any form of domestic or family violence against you.

A ‘Final Order Hearing’ is a trial. At the trial, you will be asked to stand in the witness box and tell your story. You will need to give specific details about what has happened, and when and where it happened. After you have told your story, you will be questioned about any parts of your story that do not line up with your former partners version of the story to see whether any of those inconsistencies can be resolved. After you have done this, your witnesses (if you have any) will do the same. After your witnesses, your former partner and their witnesses will also go through the same process. After hearing from everyone, the Magistrate will then decide whether an FVRO is necessary and, if it is, they will implement the Final FVRO.

Help in the short term

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On some occasions Police issue what is known as a Police Order. This is a violence restraining order which may be issued by the Police usually after attending a call out to a home where one of the parties has alleged their partner/family member was physically or otherwise abusive towards them. These orders usually last for up to 72 hours. The Police normally then encourage the protected person to follow this up straight away by applying for a FVRO at the Magistrates Court.

Further information about FVROs, Police Orders and services offered by the WA Police, including how to report a breach of a FVRO can be found at the Legal Aid website and the WA Police website.

Further information about getting legal help with domestic and family violence matters can be found on the Family Violence Law Help webpage.

Where do FVROs Apply?

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Every new family violence restraining order and police order is automatically recognised and enforceable across Australia. This means that if you move or visit another state, you don't have to go to court to register your order, and the order can be enforced by local police no matter where in Australia the victim and perpetrator are located.

Further information in relation to accessing legal support can be found at 3g. Accessing Legal Services.

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