Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, psychological or financial — a protection order means an abuser can be arrested if they hurt, threaten or even approach you or your children.
Once your protection order is granted, the person named in the order must not:
- physically, sexually, psychologically or financially abuse or threaten you, your children or other people you name in the order
- encourage anyone else to abuse or threaten you, your children or anyone named in the order
- damage or threaten to damage your property.
The person named in the order will probably have to attend a court-appointed 'non-violence' programme. They must also hand in any firearms within 24 hours of a temporary order being granted and their firearms licence will be suspended. Once the order is made final, their firearms licence will usually be cancelled.
Conditions you can include
The order usually includes non-contact conditions — but you can choose to agree to some contact if you want to. The order can prevent the person named in it from:
- coming to your house or onto your property or workplace, or your children's school
- trying to stop you, your children or your friends or family from coming or going anywhere
- phoning, writing or contacting you in any way unless:
- there’s an emergency
- you give them written permission, or
- you’re both asked to attend a family group conference.
You can work with your lawyer or the Family Court to decide special conditions — such as what happens when you pick up or drop off your children.
By law, both parents have custody rights unless a court says otherwise. You can apply separately for sole custody if you’re worried about your children’s safety.
If there’s proven violence, the abuser usually won’t be allowed to see their children without supervision.
You’ll need to tell their school, daycare and other caregivers about the order — and let them know exactly who’s allowed to visit the children or take them away.
Getting a protection order
You can get help to find a lawyer and organise a protection order from:
You can also go to your nearest Family Court and ask the Family Court Coordinator to help you apply for a protection order.
Writing your application
Your lawyer will need to help you with your application. They’ll:
- help you write your application
- take down your statement
- help you apply for free legal aid if you need it
- help you apply for a property order if you need it, to give you possession of your house — or your furniture if you’re going to move out.
Getting the order approved by the Family Court
Once your application is ready, it will be given to the Family Court with your statement. Most protection orders are granted immediately. The court will let you or your lawyer know if it's been granted.
The Family Court judge can usually make a decision from your application, but sometimes they might ask to talk to you and your lawyer.
You can take a family member or friend to the court for support.
Notifying the person the order is against
Most protection orders are made without notice, which means they’re made without the person named in them being aware that they’re happening. If a judge grants an urgent (temporary) protection order, the person the order is against will be given a copy of the order and a chance to respond.
Sometimes the judge will ask that the person named in the order receives notice of the application. This means they'll be given a short time (usually hours or up to a few days) to file a written defence. If the defence is filed, the court will hear each side before making a decision.
Once the order is granted
- The order is written up at the court and copies are made.
- You and your lawyer will get a copy.
- A bailiff or the Police will take a copy to give to the person named in the order. They’ll explain what it means and what happens if they break the order.
- A copy will be sent to your nearest police station, so they’re aware of the order.
The order is temporary for 3 months if the person named in the order isn't given notice beforehand.
If they don't file a defence once they've been notified, the order automatically becomes permanent after the 3 months are up. If they want to defend the order, a hearing will be held to consider both sides.
If you have a protection order against someone and decide to let them back into your life, you can suspend the non-contact parts of the order — but not the non-violence parts. Even if you start living together again, the non-contact provisions come back into effect immediately if you ask them to leave — they’re only ever allowed contact with you with your express consent as long as the order is in place. If you want to lift the whole protection order, you can apply to the court to have it cancelled. You can choose to cancel the order at any time.
Changing a protection order
Cancelling a protection order
If you have a protection order against someone and decide to let them back into your life, you can suspend the non-contact parts of the order — but not the non-violence parts.
Even if you start living together again, the non-contact provisions come back into effect immediately if you ask them to leave — they’re only ever allowed contact with you with your express consent as long as the order is in place.
If you want to lift the whole protection order, you can apply to the court to have it cancelled. You can choose to cancel the order at any time.
If a protection order is breached
The Police can arrest anyone breaching a protection order. They could be charged in a criminal court, not the Family Court. The maximum penalty for breaching a protection order is 3 years in prison.
Any other crimes that are committed when the order is breached (like any violence or destruction of property) will be charged separately.
Penalties for breaching a protection order and any other crimes committed may be served concurrently (at the same time) or consecutively (one after the other), depending on the circumstances of the case.