Intervention Orders (Australia): The facts in plain English

Intervention order


This article has been written to explain the facts about about Intervention Orders (“IVO”), Domestic Violence Orders (“DVO”) and Apprehended Violence Orders (“AVO”) in an understandable manner without legal jargon.

We are Susan and Dylan, Principal lawyers at Aitken Partners. Together we have over 30 years’ experience working exclusively in Family Law and Family Violence. Susan is also an Independent Children’s Lawyer and is appointed by the Court to represent children in difficult matters. This gives Susan incredible insight when dealing with parenting matters and also family violence.

To start, all three orders mentioned above (IVO, DVO, AVO) are basically the same, it just depends which Australian state you live in. IVOs are in Victoria. DVO’s are in Queensland and AVOs are in New South Wales.

However, any Order made in any state is now nationally recognised. For example, an Order made in Victoria, is still enforceable in Queensland.

For ease of reference, we will refer to them as a Family Violence Order (“FVO”) from here on.

What is a Family Violence Order and what is its purpose?

A family violence Order is an Order of a Court which is designed to protect a person or persons.

It is now law that all children of a person who obtain an Intervention Order in Victoria are placed on the Order as well for their protection. A parent does not need to do a separate Application for children under 18 years of age.

A Family Violence Order is actually a civil Order and is not a criminal matter. However, if someone breaches a Family Violence Order, the matter can then become criminal. The police can charge the person breaching the FVO with a criminal offence.

Who can apply for an Intervention Order?

Any person who is suffering family violence. Family violence is a very broad ranging matter and is so much more than just physical violence. Family violence can include:

  • Emotional abuse
  • Psychological abuse
  • Financial control and abuse
  • Coercive control (which is now a criminal offence in NSW and Queensland)
  • Stalking
  • Not allowing someone to talk or spend time with friends and family
  • Depriving someone of their liberty and freedom

The process of applying for a Family Violence Order

Immediate danger

If you are in immediate danger you should call 000 contact your local Police station immediately. Police can apply for a Family Violence Order for your protection in cases where a person is in immediate danger.

Not in immediate danger

If you are not in immediate danger or the Police refuse to take out an Order on your behalf, you will need to apply to the Court.

Applying for a Family Violence Order has been simplified significantly in recent years.

To apply for an Order

  • You can now submit an online Application through the Magistrates Court website for your state
  • Your online Application is then sent to the Family Violence Registry at your local Magistrates Court
  • A Registrar of the Court will contact you to confirm the details and arrange a time for the matter to be heard before a Magistrate

You will be referred to as the Affected Family Member (AFM) in the FVO.

Evidence required to support a FVO application.

When you apply for a FVO, you need to write down your narrative of the family violence you have been suffering.

This is to include the most recent example of what has happened but also historical occurrences as well. It is important that this is detailed and shows specific examples of family violence which you have suffered.

There isn’t a lot of space on the form to go into great detail but try and fit in as much as possible. It is important to include dates and time of the incidents that have occurred if you can.

What happens after a FVO is granted?

After a FVO is granted, it is then served on the Respondent. Once the Order is served, it is legally enforceable.

If the Respondent is to break any of the conditions of the Order, you should report it immediately to Police.

It is important to understand that you are not able to agree with the Respondent to do things that are not permitted by the FVO.

For example, if you were to say to the Respondent that they can come to your home for a barbecue on the weekend, and the Order doesn’t allow the Respondent to come to your house, then the Respondent will be breaching the Order by attending your house.

The police are still able to charge the Respondent with a breach of the FVO even though you agreed for the Respondent to breach the conditions.

What are the common terms of a FVO?

Each FVO is unique and has its own conditions, however an example of some of the main Orders are:

  • Not to commit family violence against the AFM/s. As mentioned earlier, this has a very large and wide-reaching definition. It is important to remember that family violence is not only physical and has a lot of different interpretations.
  • Not to go within or stay within 200m of somewhere the AFM goes to school, work or lives.
  • No to go within or stay within 5 metres of the AFM. For example, if the Respondent was to see you at the shops, they are not to approach you and are to keep 5 metres away.
  • Not to communicate with the AFM. This includes via telephone, social media or text message.
  • Not to publish anything on the internet about the AFM. Most recently this has included comments on Instagram, Facebook and other social media sites.
  • Not to get anyone else to do something that the FVO does not allow the Respondent to do. For example, the Respondent cannot have people post things on the internet about the AFM at the Respondent’s direction.

What happens if someone breaches a FVO?

Breaching a FVO becomes a criminal offence.

Remember above, we were talking about a FVO being a civil Court Order. Well, if the Respondent breaches an Order, it becomes a criminal matter and the police lay charges.

There are very serious consequences depending on what the breach relates to. However, breaching an FVO carries options for imprisonment, large fines and criminal convictions. It really does depend on the severity of the breach and the context.

How long does a FVO last and can I extend it?

There is no standard time for the duration of FVOs. Each case is determined on its merits. In most instances FVO are made for 12 months or more. In very serious cases an Order can be made indefinitely. It is the Magistrate who determines the duration of the FVO.

There is always the option to seek an extension of an Order should the Respondent breach the Order or if there are ongoing risks at the time the Order is due to expire. It is important to note that any extension Application needs to be made prior to the Order expiring.

To extend a FVO, you will need to do a further Application and make a list of the Family Violence issues which have occurred or what the ongoing risk is. It is important to again provide detail as to the allegations of family violence which have occurred.

Can a Family Violence Order be revoked?

A FVO can be revoked if there is a material change in circumstances since the Order came into place.

A revocation of an Order is not common and is very rare on an interim basis.

The usual circumstances that an Order may be revoked is if the AFM is no longer living in Australia or there are Family Court Orders which render the FVO impractical.

Is an FVO just a piece of paper?

Although it is said that a FVO is just a piece of paper, if the FVO is breached, the police have the power to arrest and charge the Respondent.

A FVO provides protection for the AFM and makes it clear to the Respondent that there are restrictions on certain behaviour.

Summary: Understanding Intervention Orders in Australia

We hope that the Q&As in this article have given you clarity around Intervention Orders in Australia.

As mentioned, each case for a Family Violence Order is different and is based on the severity of events leading up to the order and future risk to the Affected Family Member.

We urge you not to take advice from other people who have personal experience with FVOs. Well-meaning advice is often incorrect due to their state of affairs being different to yours.

While you can submit an Application independently online through the Magistrates Court, it is important to understand the impact of the order, exactly how they work and what will happen if your application is successful.

For advice specific to your circumstances, chat to experienced local family lawyer or see if you are eligible for legal aid. Experts in Family Law will guide you to make the right decisions and the path forward to ensure you and your family are safe.

Get more information

For further information about Interventions Orders in your state see these links:

If you are in Queensland

If you are in New South Wales

If you are in Victoria

If you are in Western Australia

If you are in South Australia

If you are in the Northern Territory

If you are in the Australian Capital Territory

If you are in Tasmania

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Susan Ilias

About the author

Susan Ilias is an experienced family lawyer with significant experience with Intervention Orders and acting as an Independent Children's Lawyer. She also advises on all aspects of divorce, including financial settlements and parenting arrangements. Her passion is in providing a voice to those that find it difficult to be heard.

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