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Family Violence Restraining Order: What is Family Violence?

Domestic violence or family violence is unfortunately common in Australia which is a contributing factor to homelessness in women, children and men. According to statistics, one in four women and one in thirteen men has experienced violence from an intimate partner. Family violence also affects the children in the family with 86.8% of them indicating they either saw or heard the violent situation.
These statistics are rather alarming and what makes the situation potentially even more dire is that many victims of family violence do not report their experience.

What is Family Violence?

The WA Restraining Order Act defines family violence as:

  • violence, or a threat of violence, by someone towards a family member, or
  • any other behaviour that coerces or controls another family member, or causes them to be fearful.

Family violence is not limited to physical violence. Behaviours that involve stalking, abuse, or which limit or control another family member from a physical, emotional, financial, psychological or sexual standpoint can also be classified as family violence.

The definition of a family member in the eyes of the law is fairly broad. Family members can include current and former:

  • spouses, siblings, children, parents, grandparents and step-family relationships, as well as other relatives, and
  • members of intimate or family-type relationships.

It also covers the former spouse or former de facto partner of the person who wants to be protected.

Applying for a Family Violence Restraining Order

If you are experiencing a family violence situation, you can apply for a Family Violence Restraining Order (FVRO) to seek protection from the Court. The FVRO was introduced in Western Australia on 1 July 2017 and is governed under the West Australian Restraining Orders Act 1997. The Act also covers other restraining orders such as Violence Restraining Orders and Misconduct Restraining Order.

To apply for a FVRO, you need to complete an application and lodge it at your local Magistrates Court. There are no fees associated with the application.

Most Courts will hold a hearing on the same day you lodge your application. The first hearing is usually ex-parte, meaning without the respondent’s (the person whom you are seeking protection from) presence. During the hearing the Court will determine if an interim FVRO should be issued. If an interim FVRO is issued, the police will then serve it to the respondent. The respondent has 21 days from the date they are served to file an objection.

If the respondent does not object or consents to the order the order will become a final order. If they object, the matter may go to a trial. If the Court is satisfied the order should be made it will make a final order.

Unless it is cancelled or a variation is made, the final FVRO is usually valid for 24 months.

What Does the FVRO do?

A FVRO can include conditions to stop the respondent from doing certain things that they normally would be allowed to do. This may include things like:

  • Coming to or near where you live or work
  • Being at or near a certain place
  • Coming within a certain distance of you
  • Contacting or trying to communicate with you in any way

The conditions in the FVRO can be shaped to suit your situation.

If the respondent breaches any of those conditions, they will be committing a criminal offence.

Where Can I Get Help?

If your situation is an emergency with serious risk and requires urgent action, you should seek police assistance immediately. If you are experiencing family violence and require support, here are some support services that you can contact:

  • Crisis Care (24 hour) – (08) 9223 1111 or 1800 199 008
  • National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service (1800 RESPECT) – 1800 737 732
  • Women’s Domestic Violence Helpline – (08) 9223 1188 or 1800 007 339 
  • Men’s Domestic Violence Helpline – (08) 9223 1199 or 1800 000 599
  • Children’s Counselling Services – (08) 9328 1888

If you would like to file an application for a FVRO, it is highly recommended that you seek legal advice first. The team at Frost & Associates are experienced family lawyers in representing clients in family violence matters whether it is for the applicant or the respondent. If you need any assistance with the application or representation at Court in relation to restraining orders, do not hesitate to contact our office at (08) 9541 0384.