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What is an FVRO?

A Family Violence Restraining Order (“FRVO”), which is a restraining order made in certain circumstances between people in close personal relationships, such as former or current partners or spouses or family members, makes it unlawful for a person to do certain things, such as approach where the protected person lives, works or is educated, communicate with a protected person, go within a certain distance (eg. 50 metres) of the protected person, or tag them in posts on social media, amongst other things.

The purpose of an FVRO is to prevent family violence, and an FVRO is often put in place to prevent children from being exposed to family violence.  While it is not an offence to be restrained by an FVRO, it is an offence to breach one, and restrained persons should be very mindful to comply with the terms of an FVRO.

How can an FVRO affect parenting arrangements?

An FVRO can extend to the children of a relationship, however, it cannot address parenting arrangements.  An FVRO may prohibit a restrained person from communicating with a protected person in all circumstances, but it may also set out exceptions allowing communication between the parties by limited means, on certain topics.  Such exceptions may include that a restrained person can communicate with a protected person only in relation to pick-ups or drop-offs of children, or it may say that a restrained person can only communicate with a protected person through a legal representative or a family dispute resolution practitioner.

If the terms of an FVRO prohibit a restrained person from communicating with a protected person by phone, text, email, social media, or any other means of direct communication without setting out exceptions in relation to children, this can make it very difficult for the parties to manage their parenting responsibilities, particularly if they share care of young children.

What should parents be mindful of when navigating the restrictions on an FVRO?

It is very important that a restrained person complies with the exact terms of an FVRO, and this can have a significant impact in family law matters.  It is common for the terms to allow communication in relation to the welfare of the children.

Restrained parents must navigate the boundaries set by these terms carefully, but so long as the Court considers it safe for a protected person and any children to have this exception included in the terms of an FVRO, an FVRO can, in some cases, lead to an improvement in co-parenting.  This may sound counter-intuitive, but if both a restrained person and a protected person have clear parameters for what is acceptable communication between them, it can lead to less volatility in the interactions between the separated parents.

It is important to note that a restrained person’s failure to adhere to the terms of an FVRO, by communicating with a protected person other than as is permitted, can result in breach proceedings being brought by police.  Breaches can lead to serious consequences, including a criminal conviction, a term of imprisonment or hefty fines.  There is a “three strikes” rule, which means that if a restrained person is convicted of three breaches of an FVRO, there is a presumption of a six month imprisonment as the penalty.

Can parents modify the terms of an FVRO to allow communication?

In some circumstances, a party may seek to modify the terms of the FVRO, including those terms relating to communication.  This can be done by applying to the Court to request adjustments to the terms, such as to allow for communication via text message as well as by email, or to expand the subject matter of the communication to better suit the needs of the parents and any children involved.  Evidence can be brought to the Court’s attention to support an application to amend an FVRO, and if a protected person agrees to the amendments that are being sought, the Court will be more likely to make an order to amend.

While restrictions on direct communication between parents may pose challenges, it is essential to prioritise the safety and well-being of anyone involved in a separation, particularly children.  By understanding and complying with the terms of an FVRO, parents can navigate communication effectively while ensuring that protective measures remain in place.

It should be noted that orders made in the Family Court as to handovers and communication between parents will automatically override any provisions of an FVRO, and if it is contemplated that Family Court proceedings are necessary between a protected person and a restrained person, it may be easier and more cost effective to seek orders in the Family Court than to attempt to have an FVRO changed in the Magistrate’s Court.

Lynn and Brown Lawyers encourage anyone needing help with FVROs or Family Law matters to get in touch with one of our experienced family lawyers.  You can contact us through our website www.lynnandbrown.com.au or by calling 08 9375 3411.

About the Authors: This article has been authored by Alison and Jacqui. Alison is a career-change lawyer who undertook her legal studies as a mature age student.  She completed her Bachelor of Laws with Edith Cowan University in November 2022, her Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice with the College of Law in May 2023, and was admitted as a Lawyer in the Supreme Court of Western Australia in August 2023. Jacqui has over 20 years’ experience in legal practice and practices in family law, mediation and estate planning. Jacqui is also a Nationally Accredited Mediator and a Notary Public.

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