No doubt you will have heard of a Domestic Violence Order – called an ‘AVO’ in some States. In Queensland, it is called a Domestic Violence Protection Order here in Queensland (or ‘DVO’). A Domestic Violence Protection Order is a Court order that prevents one person (the respondent) from committing domestic violence towards someone else, or sometimes multiple people.
The Order works by setting conditions that the person must comply with. Like not having contact with the other person. Or staying a certain distance away from them at all times. Or simply being of good behaviour towards them. And if they breach those conditions, then they can be charged by Police with a criminal offence.
If you are the person protected by an Order, you are called the ‘aggrieved’. If you are the person accused of domestic violence towards the aggrieved, you are the ‘respondent’, and the conditions in the Order will apply to you. Even though a Domestic Violence Protection Order is between (at least) two people, it is important to remember that the conditions on that Order only apply to the respondent. Orders only work one way, to protect the aggrieved.
What is the process?
An aggrieved can apply for a Domestic Violence Protection Order themselves, or the Police can do it for them.
Domestic Violence Protection Orders last for a set period of time – usually 5 years. And will expire at the end of that period, unless someone (like the Police, or the aggrieved) applies to extend the Order. Breaching a Domestic Violence Protection Order is a serious matter. It can, and often does, lead to a person being sentenced to imprisonment.
At Bamberry Lawyers, our team are specialists at handling domestic violence cases, both for people who need protection, and those accused of being domestically violent.
We can help you if you:-
- Are applying for a domestic violence protection order;
- Need to vary the terms of an existing domestic violence protection order;
- Want to defend an application made against you for a domestic violence protection order; and
- Have been charged with breaching a domestic violence protection order.
What is Domestic Violence?
When you hear the words ‘Domestic Violence’, you probably think it refers to actual violence; that is, one person assaulting another in some way. Though this certainly could be domestic violence, the legal definition is far broader, and captures conduct that goes beyond actual assaults – the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012 says that Domestic Violence is:
“…behaviour by a person towards another person with whom the first person is in a relevant relationship that is physically, sexually, emotionally, psychologically or economically abusive, threatening, coercive or in any other way controls or dominates the second person and causes the second person to fear for the second person’s safety or wellbeing or that of someone else.”
Some examples of conduct that might be considered Domestic Violence are:-
- Actual physical assaults, or threatening to harm someone
- Damaging a person’s property
- Contacting someone without their consent (like calling or texting constantly)
- Stalking or following someone, like to their house or workplace
- Monitoring someone without their consent (e.g. reading text messages or emails)
- Insulting someone
- Making someone engage in sexual conduct unwillingly
- Threatening to commit suicide or self-harm
- Threatening to no longer look after someone, financially or otherwise (like an elderly parent, or a partner who does not work themselves)
As you can see, there are a lot of ways that one person can act towards another that could amount to Domestic Violence, even where no physical violence is involved.
What is a relevant relationship?
In order for a Court to make a Domestic Violence order between people a ‘relevant relationship’ has to exist. This is defined as an intimate personal relationship, a family relationship or an informal care relationship. So romantic partners, family members, carers and fall under this definition. It does NOT include people who are just known to each other if one of those other factors are not present. So you would not be able to obtain a Domestic Violence order against co-workers or neighbours, for example.
When can a court make a Domestic Violence Protection Order?
When there is a proper Application for a Domestic Violence Order before the Court, and all of the other rules have been complied with, then the Court is empowered by Section 37 to make a Domestic Violence Protection Order if:-
(a) a relevant relationship exists between the aggrieved and the respondent; and
(b) the respondent has committed domestic violence against the aggrieved; and
(c) a protection order is necessary or desirable to protect the aggrieved from domestic violence.
The way that a Court must be ‘satisfied’ of these things is with evidence. Usually, this is the sworn statement of the aggrieved person about the domestic violence that has occurred. But it can also be other evidence like photographs, text messages, recordings, or even the statements of Police officers (eg. if Police have been called to attend a domestic violence incident in someone’s home).
If the respondent wants to contest a Protection Order being made by the Court, they will need to provide their own evidence that suggests why the Court should not make an Order.
When would the court consider it necessary or desirable to make a domestic violence protection order?
This is the part of the ‘test’ most often in dispute when Application for Domestic Violence Protection Orders go to trial. For example, a person might agree that they committed an act of domestic violence to their ex-partner, but argue that an Order is not ‘necessary or desirable’ now as they have ended the relationship and moved interstate. Or where the acts of domestic violence are minor, an Order is not needed.
The Court will have regard to all of the evidence before it, as well as the relevant legal principles, in arriving at a decision about whether a Domestic Violence Protection Order is ‘necessary or desirable’.
Are Children included in a Domestic Violence Protection Order?
A domestic violence protection order includes children to protect them from violence. This includes the aggrieved or respondents children, or children who usually live with either of them (i.e. step-children or friends of their children who visit and spend time their regularly). It can also include unborn children if one of the parties is pregnant.
For a child to be included on a Domestic Violence Protection Order, the Court does not have to be satisfied that an act of Domestic Violence has been committed to the child. Children can be included in a Protection Order if they have been ‘exposed’ to Domestic Violence.
The law defines ‘exposed’ as a child hearing, seeing, or “otherwise experiencing” domestic violence. For example, hearing an argument between their parents. Or having to help someone who has been asaulted or seeing damaged things at home.
What is a Temporary Protection Order and when can a court make one?
It is not always possible for a Court to make a Protection Order on the very first Court date. The respondent may dispute the application and want to have a trial. Or, the respondent hasn’t served with the Court paperwork yet. Alternatively the Court may want more information about the circumstances of the Application.
A Temporary Protection Order is a Domestic Violence order that the Court can make ‘in the meantime’, while an Application for a Domestic Violence Protection Order is yet to be decided. It offers the same level of protection as a full order does, but only lasts as long as there is still an Application for a full order before the Court, and ends when the Court proceedings end.
In order to make a Temporary Protection Order, the Court does not need to be satisfied of things to the same extend that it does when making a full order. The test applied is easier to meet, so Temporary Protection Orders are made fairly regularly in Domestic Violence proceedings.
It is not guaranteed that a Court will make a Temporary Protection Order. Particularly when there is limited evidence that there has been any Domestic Violence between the parties.
WHAT IS ‘COERCIVE CONTROL’?
You have likely heard of the phrase ‘coercive control’ recently. Our Parliament will update the law to recognise that a person can engage in conduct over a period of time. Although each act might not seem that serious it is still manipulative and abusive. Coercive control is serious and damaging conduct that can occur in a relationship. Because it happens gradually, people who are being controlled do not immediately realise that it is happening.
Specifically, coercive control is a person engaging in conduct another that is psychologically-manipulative. The conduct allows the person to gain control/power over the other.
Examples of coercive control are:
- Tracking someone’s location
- Monitoring their social media or phone use
- Controlling their finances or access to money
- Regular verbal abuse/insults/put downs
- Isolating someone from their friends or family
- Controlling what a person wears
Talk to one of our Lawyers about your individual circumstances, by contacting us.