If you’re experiencing family violence, there are services and agencies available to help you. Call triple zero (000) if you are in danger.
It is important that you feel safe. See the find support page for more information. If you’re in danger, call 000.
If there was an application for a family violence intervention order, the one who made it is called the applicant. The applicant can be a family member affected by family violence—for example, a family member, a partner, a parent, a guardian, or the police. It can also be anyone who has consent of the affected family member.
The police must act to protect people and can apply for an order to protect a person even if the person does not want it.
The application will include who needs to be protected. People who need to be protected are called affected family members. Children who have been around family violence in any way should be included as affected family members.
The person who has been using family violence is called the respondent.
See the family violence intervention orders page for who can be considered a family member.
- What the hearing is
The hearing is when a magistrate listens to the application for a family violence intervention order.
You may have to come back to court more than once.
The hearing is usually several weeks after the application form is processed by the court. It may be sooner if the respondent has been bailed or is in custody.
This page is about the first hearing, called the first mention date. There may be other hearings after this, such as:
- Direction hearing – If the respondent does not agree to (called ‘contest’) the intervention order, this hearing is to try settle it. This is a procedural hearing and the magistrate will not be able to hear any evidence. If the respondent is still contesting the order, there will be a contested hearing.
- Contested hearing - This is when the magistrate hears all the evidence from both sides, including witnesses.
- Before your hearing
You may want to get legal advice before going to court
Going to court is a legal process, so it’s a good idea to get legal advice before you go.
This can help you to be prepared, especially if you:
- have children who will be affected by the order
- already have a parenting order
- have needs that the court should consider (for example, you run a business from home which could be affected if you must leave the house)
- feel unsafe or afraid about going to court.
The magistrate will want you to get legal advice if the respondent disagrees with the intervention order being made.
See the find support page for free or low-cost legal services.
Prepare for your hearing
Plan to be there for the entire day.
See find support for:
- support you can get at court—for example, interpreter
- how to find out if the court has the facilities you may need—for example, accessible toilets
- other tips to prepare for your time at court—for example, safety planning to stay safe.
See the Victoria Legal Aid information on what you can do to prepare.
Let the court know if you cannot go to the hearing
You should go to your hearing. If you do not attend, your application may be dismissed. The magistrate can make an order even if you are not there but it’s important for you to have your say so you get an intervention order that works for you.
To change the hearing date, contact the relevant court as soon as you can. Call the intervention order registry (if there is one) or the general enquiry number.
Changing the date is possible, but it can be hard to do. Once the date has been set, the court may not be willing to change it unless the respondent agrees.
Let the court know if you want to withdraw your application
If you are the applicant and you change your mind about needing the order, you need to fill in a notice of withdrawal, and file it at a court. You can also go to court to fill in the form and file it. You need to file it before your hearing date and inform the respondent.
You cannot withdraw a police application.
If you don’t let the court know that you want to withdraw your application, and the respondent goes to the hearing with a lawyer, you may have to pay legal costs.
If you have forgotten your hearing date or would like to withdraw an application, contact the relevant court.
- On the day
It is best if you arrive at least 30 minutes before your court time to make time for security checks and arranging for support you may need.
Your case may not be heard straight away. Plan to be there for the whole day.
See the Victoria Legal Aid website information on what may happen:
- in the courtroom—for example, what to do when you arrive
- at the hearing—for example, what happens if the respondent agrees to the order, asks for an undertaking instead, disagrees with the order, or does not go to court
To find out about the orders a magistrate can make, see the applying for an intervention order page.
- The magistrate’s decision
The magistrate can make several orders. See the applying for intervention order page about the orders they can make.
The magistrate will make an order if they believe that the respondent’s behaviour should be limited to protect another person. They will read out the conditions and when the order will end. The applicant or person who needs protecting can ask the magistrate to make any changes. The order is then made.
The magistrate may explain the order to the respondent. They may also explain what happens if they break the conditions of the order.
Ask the magistrate to explain anything you do not understand.
- After the hearing
Once the magistrate has made an order, you can leave the courtroom.
The registrar will prepare a copy of the order for you and the respondent. This can take a while. You can either wait at the court, or you can ask to have the copy sent to you.
Read the order before you leave. Ask the court staff to explain anything in the order you do not understand.
The court staff will send a copy of the order to the police for their records.
It is important that you feel safe. See the find support page for more information.
- The order starts being active after it is deemed served
After the magistrate makes an intervention order, the order has to be given or served upon the respondent. When this happens, the order starts being active; it starts protecting the affected persons.
Serving means the order was explained to the respondent. This can be done by the magistrate, registrar or the police.
The respondent must behave according to the order. If they don’t, you should tell the police.
If the respondent was at court when an order was made
The magistrate may explain the order to the respondent and what happens if they break the conditions of the order.
The magistrate will decide if the order is effective immediately.
If the magistrate decides it can be effective immediately, there is no need for the documents to be served upon the respondent. The court staff will give the respondent a copy of the order.
If the magistrate decides it is not effective yet, the order has to be served on the respondent. The court staff can serve the order after the hearing. That is when the order will become active.
If the respondent was served but did not wait to get a copy
A copy of the order will be sent to the respondent.
If the respondent was served or was not at the hearing
If the respondent was not served, a copy of the order will be sent to the police station closest to where the respondent lives.
The police will personally give the order to the respondent. They will explain to the respondent what the intervention order means, including what it means to break the order (called breach). The police will then file a ‘certificate of service’ with the court to state they have served the order.
If the police cannot find the respondent and give the order personally, they will file a ‘certificate of inability to serve’, explaining why this has happened.
If the police believe the respondent will avoid or is avoiding them, they can apply for permission from the magistrate to serve the order in other ways, including:
- leaving it in a letterbox
- giving the order to another person in contact with the respondent.
This is called an ‘alternative service’ or a ‘substituted service order’. When applying, police must prove to the court that it will result in the respondent being made aware the order has been served on them.
In some situations, respondents can apply for a rehearing, for example if they were not personally served an intervention order application. For more information about rehearings, see the respondents page.
- If you disagree with the decision
If you disagree with the magistrate’s decision, you can file for an appeal. An appeal must be filed within 30 days of the decision.
Appeals can be about:
- the making of your order
- the conditions in the order
- the refusal to make an order
- the refusal to impose certain conditions in an order.
Lodging an appeal does not automatically change the order. The order will remain in force until the appeal is heard and a decision made.
STEP 1: You need to complete and submit the form
You can go to the closest Magistrates' Court to get the form, which is called notice to appeal. Fill in the form. The completed form needs to reach the court within 30 days of the decision.
You can also fill it in at court and file it on the spot.
STEP 2: The court documents and a hearing date will be given
The Magistrates’ Court will send you a copy of the application for appeal and the date for the hearing (called ‘directions hearing’).
The police will serve a copy of the documents on the other person, notifying them of the appeal.
The hearing could be at the County Court or the Supreme Court of Victoria.
This is not a full list of legislation associated with this topic. See the Victorian Government's legislation website for more information.