Coming to court for family violence intervention order application is serious. There are range of agencies who can provide support and help you prepare for the hearing.
Intervention orders are serious. It is important for you to understand what the family violence intervention order is about. There are organisations that can help you. See the find support page to get legal advice and support.
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.
If an application or an order was made against you, you are known as the ‘respondent’.
See the family violence intervention orders page for who can be considered a family member and what constitutes family violence.
What the hearing is
The hearing is when a magistrate listens to the application for a family violence intervention order.
The affected person and you may have received a copy of the application and summons, which has the details of the application and the date of the court hearing.
You may have to go 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 you have been bailed or are 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
To learn more about when and what the police can apply for to protect a person, see the understanding police applications page.
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 be prepared, especially if you:
- disagree with the order being made or any of the conditions
- 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).
It is also important that you understand:
- what the order means
- how the order will affect your behaviour
- what happens if you disobey the conditions of the order.
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 website for information on what:
- your options are
- to do if you agree to the order
- if you want to see your children
- if you want to contact the affected family member.
It is important for you to understand what the order is about. There are organisations that can help you. See find support to get legal advice and support.
Let the court know if you cannot go to the hearing
You should go to your hearing. The magistrate can make an order even if you are not there but it’s important for you to have your say.
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 both sides agree.
To change the hearing date, contact the relevant court and give as much notice as you can. Call the intervention order registry (if there is one) or the general enquiry number.
If you have forgotten your hearing date
Contact the relevant court (either the intervention order registry or general enquiry number).
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.
When you arrive, let the court registrar know. They may be able to get legal or other support for you. They will let you know the courtroom where your matter will be heard and guide you on where to wait.
Your case may not be heard straight away. Plan to be there for the whole day.
See the Victoria Legal Aid website for information on options you have for dealing with an intervention order—for example, what happens if you agree to the order, agree to an undertaking instead of an order, or disagree with the order.
There may be supporting to help you at court. See the find support page for more information.
The magistrate’s decision
The magistrate can make several orders. See the responding to an 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 you. They may also explain what happens if you 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. This can take a while. You can either wait at the court or check with the registrar if they can send the order to you via post or email.
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.
Breaking the conditions of an intervention order is very serious. You must behave according to the order, if not, the police should be called. See the intervention order breaches 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 to or served upon you. When this happens, the order starts being active; it starts protecting the affected persons.
Serving means the order will be explained to you. This can be done by the magistrate, registrar or the police.
If you were at court when an order was made
The magistrate may explain the order to you and what happens if you 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—this means, there is no need for the documents to be served upon you. The court staff will give you a copy of the order.
If the magistrate decides it is not effective yet, it has to be served on you, the court staff can serve the order after the hearing. That is when the order will become active.
If you were served but did not wait to get a copy
A copy of the order will be sent to you.
If you were not served or not at the hearing
If you were not served with a copy of the order, it will be sent to the police station closest to where you live.
The police will personally give the order to you. They will explain 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 you and give the order personally, they will file a ‘certificate of inability to serve’, explaining why this has happened.
If the police believe you will avoid or are 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 you.
This is called an ‘alternative service’ or a ‘substituted service order’. When applying, police must prove to the court that it will result in you 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.
The appeals process
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 the 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.
If you were not aware of the application or have exceptional circumstances
The court can allow you to apply for a rehearing if you can establish one of the following:
- You are named as the ‘respondent’ on the order application, and were not personally given the application,
- The order was served by a ‘substituted service order’ or ‘alternative service order’, and you were not told there was an application against you, or
- You have exceptional circumstances that the court may consider having a rehearing as fair and just.
Applying for a rehearing does not automatically change the order. The order will remain in force until the appeal is heard and a decision made.
Contact the relevant court (either the intervention order registry or general enquiry number).
This is not a full list of legislation associated with this topic. See the Victorian Government's legislation website for more information.