The Basics of Going to Court for a Family Violence Intervention Order
The article The Basics of Going to Court for a Family Violence Intervention Order is written by Kate Da Costa, Senior Associate, Doogue + George Defence Lawyers.
Kate is one of our senior associates and is part of our Sunshine team. She regularly represents clients at the Sunshine Magistrates’ Court for various criminal legal issues.
Admitted to legal practice in 2002, Kate has since been working exclusively in the field of criminal law. She has experience in all Victorian criminal law jurisdictions including in the High Court of Australia.
The current COVID-19 lockdown restrictions may be exposing cracks and widening divisions in family relationships and household dynamics that may have long existed under the surface. Loss of income, increased alcohol consumption and social isolation can be a recipe for family violence.
If you have found yourself needing, or being served with, a Family Violence Safety Notice, an Interim Family Violence Intervention Order, or an Application for a Family Violence Intervention Order, there are some simple things to know to help make the process of going to court for a Family Violence Intervention Order a little less overwhelming.
- Go to Court
Always go to Court.
If you are an Applicant seeking protection and you do not go to Court, your application will likely be struck out.
If you are a Respondent to an Application and you do not go to Court, an Order will be made against you in your absence. You will also lose your opportunity to negotiate the conditions of a Final Order to ensure that you can easily comply with them. You may also end up with an Order that is longer in duration than it would otherwise have been had you attended Court for the Application.
Go to Court.
- Know what your matter is listed for
When giving initial advice, one of the first questions a lawyer will ask you is – ‘What is your matter listed for?’ Not all Court dates are the same. If you go to Court for a Family Violence Intervention Order once and the matter is adjourned, pay attention to what type of hearing the application is adjourned for. Is it a Mention, a Directions Hearing or a Contested Hearing? Your lawyer will explain each of these steps in the Court process to you, and let you know what to expect on your next Court date.
- Make sure you fully instruct your lawyer
Whether you are an Applicant or a Respondent, it is important that you provide your lawyer with as much relevant information as possible in the early stages of proceedings, including:
- Copies of any previous Intervention Orders or Applications
- Relevant letters, emails and text messages
- Any relevant social media posts or communications
- Family law documents
- Police documents and statements, including records of interview
- Medical reports
- A list of witnesses and a brief summary of the evidence that they can give
These documents will help you tell your story to your lawyer. Your lawyer can then assess what evidence will assist to best represent you.
- Be clear about what you are trying to achieve
An Application for a Family Violence Intervention Order can lead to various outcomes. If granted, the Court has the power to order a number of different conditions as part of an Interim or Final Order.
If you are an Applicant, you may be seeking protection from family violence, but you do not want the other party excluded from the family home. Or perhaps you do want the other party to be excluded, but you do not wish to deny them access to their children.
If you are a Respondent, you may wish to consent to a full Final Order but you need to retrieve particular items of property remaining in the family home. Or you may wish to maintain your ability to contact the Applicant about child care arrangements. Or you may be contesting the Application all together.
As an Applicant or a Respondent, it is important that you are clear about what you are trying to achieve. Your lawyer will discuss with you the best way to seek to achieve your objective.
- Let your lawyer to do the talking
It is your lawyer’s role to speak on your behalf and to advocate for your position.
When your matter is proceeding in Court it may well be a natural instinct to answer any questions that the Magistrate poses. Resist. Allow you lawyer to advocate for you. If your lawyer needs your instructions on a particular point, they will turn to you and quietly seek your response. It is your lawyer’s role to then provide that information to the Magistrate.
Of course, if there is something relevant and important that you need to tell your lawyer, wait for a pause in proceedings and gain your lawyer’s attention to provide them with that information.
If the Application is contested, remember that you will ultimately have an opportunity to give evidence and to tell your story to the Court at the Contested Hearing of the Application.
- Be respectful
While it will no doubt be a confronting and difficult time, it is important to maintain your composure and to demonstrate respect to the Court and the Application process.
When entering the Court room, follow your lawyer’s lead and bow to the presiding Magistrate. You must also stand and bow when the Magistrate enters or leaves the Court room. This is Court room etiquette.
When your matter is proceeding, avoid facial expressions such as eye rolling, disapproving expressions, or shaking your head. No matter what your actual feelings are to the situation and the Application, maintain a neutral and composed expression.
Finally, the other party to the Application will most likely be at Court. Do not approach them, or have any of your supporters approach them. Just don’t.
Family Violence Intervention Orders can have far reaching consequences. It is most important that you obtain expert legal advice to assist you through the process. Engage a lawyer who will strive to get the outcome you are seeking.
It is a stressful time. Knowing some basics about Intervention Orders at Court can assist you to focus on the big issues.