Updated: Mar 28
It’s a sad reality that sometimes when someone has an FVRO against them, that they may still choose to ignore it. There are, however, serious implications when it comes to breaching an FVRO; let’s take a look at this in closer detail now.
What is a Family Violence Restraining Order?
A Family Violence Restraining Order (FVRO) is an order issued by the Court, to protect you, or a member of your family and your property from any form of violence, threat or intimidation from any family member or extended family relative. The definition of a family member covers both current and former family members.
Family violence includes physical and emotional abuse, harassment, stalking, or perhaps being of a sexual or financial nature or any other act that may cause one to be fearful. In most cases a FVRO is issued to protect a person and their children from an ex-spouse during or after a marriage breakdown.
The same laws apply for married couples and de facto partners.
Who can apply for an FVRO?
Anyone who has been the victim of violence or has been threatened by a family member or ex-partner, may apply for an FVRO. It is highly advisable to obtain legal advice from a reputable family lawyer first as you will have to provide evidence to show that an act of violence or abuse has occurred, or is likely to occur, unless a restraining order is granted.
Be mindful that the respondent also has the right to oppose the application, but must also show evidence that there was no act of violence or there is no risk of it occurring in the future.
In urgent matters, it will usually take a few hours to obtain an order, depending on the waiting time of the Court. If application is successful, the Court will issue an Interim Order, which will be served on the respondent by the Police.
If there is an immediate danger, dial 000 for assistance. For non-emergency assistance from the police, dial 131 444.
What restrictions can be included in an FVRO?
As all situations are different, the Court will include conditions to suit your particular circumstances and needs, and may also stipulate for how long the FVRO will be valid.
If no time span is stipulated a period of two years from the date it comes into effect will apply.
The terms and conditions of an order will apply across Australia and not only the State in which it was issued. If the original order was made in New Zealand and registered in Victoria, it will also be recognised across Australia.
Conditions for the respondent can include, but are not restricted to, the following terms:
1. Not being within a prescribed distance from you or your children.
2. Not coming to or near your home or place of work.
3. Not being allowed to contact or communicate with you in any way.
Practical conditions, such as allowing the respondent to come to collect their belongings, or allowing them to see or communicate with their children can, however, be included in the Order.
What are the implications of breaching an FVRO?
The implications of breaching a FVRO are extremely serious, and can result in:
· a fine
· a fine and imprisonment
The maximum fine for breaching an FVRO is $10,000.
The maximum term of imprisonment for breaching an FVRO is 2 years.
What can the police do if an FVRO is breached?
If the evidence is overwhelming, the police can arrest and detain the perpetrator until they appear in Court.
They may apply for bail and the Court will rule whether releasing them will pose a threat to anyone’s safety, after hearing the applicant’s views as well.
What can the Court do if an FVRO is breached?
The Court may impose the maximum penalty as outlined above, but a breach can also have further detrimental implications, for the perpetrator, such as:
The Family Court can get copies of transcripts of FVRO hearings, to use in Family Court proceedings.
If findings of family violence are made against a party in FVRO proceedings, the Family Court can consider those findings when making decisions in Family Court proceedings.
If you breach a FVRO, the Family Court will likely take a dim view of that when making parenting orders.
If the offender has carried out or exposed a child to an act of violence, or has already breached an order during the past two years, the offence becomes even more serious and more serious penalties can be incurred.
What happens if I help someone to breach an FVRO?
If you are the applicant of the FVRO, it is imperative to seek professional legal advice, as all the merits and circumstances of the breach will need to be evaluated.
While you may not be prosecuted for assisting someone to breach the FVRO, it will not do you any favours. The Court may see reason to vary, or even cancel your order, rendering you vulnerable to any further breaches and compromise yours, and perhaps your children’s safety.
Are there any circumstances that allow an FVRO to be breached?
There may very well be a host of extenuating circumstances in any breach of a FVRO. Such could include the following:
· The breach was necessary when responding to an emergency
· Attending a Court or mediation appointment
· Following instructions from a lawyer, Child Welfare Officer, or Court official
Terms of any FVRO can be complicated affairs, not easily understood by many people. Once again, it just highlights the importance of seeking professional legal advice, when dealing with them. There are so many things that can so easily go wrong, and when they do, the consequences can be devastating and often irreversible.
Author - Ella Hickman
Owner and Principal of Hickman Family Lawyers, one of the leading family lawyers in Perth.