Family Law: What Is A Violence Restraining Order?
It seems that some of the courts are handing out violence restraining orders (“VRO”) in the Perth and suburban courts like candy. But is this really the case?
Types of VROs
There are two types of VROs:
- VROs against a person who is in a family or domestic relationship with the applicant, typically a partner, and
- VROs against a person who is not in a family or domestic relationship with the applicant, usually friends or neighbours.
Both of the above VROs are obtained through the Magistrates Courts, and are civil proceedings in nature.
The police also have the power to make a violence restraining order. These are usually in place for short periods of time such as 24 hours or up to 72 hours.
When is a violence restraining order appropriate?
When a person who is either in a domestic relationship or a non-family member has been:
- Physically or sexually abusive
- Emotionally or psychologically abusive
- Economically abusive
- Stalking both physically and via social media
- Controlling, dominating or causes a person to fear for their safety
then a VRO is deemed appropriate.
What is the purpose of the VRO?
The VRO is designed to protect a person, who is in fear for their safety, by preventing the perpetrator from approaching them, communicating with them, or even allowing a third party to communicate on the perpetrator’s behalf with them. This means that the perpetrator is not allowed to send messages via some else either. Today these preventative conditions also include all forms of social media.
There are however, clauses contained within a VRO allowing communication via a lawyer, or in the cases of a domestic situation where there are children involved that are required to be taken between the two parents, to spend time with each of them, then the court can make allowances in the VRO to accommodate this.
How to apply for a VRO
To apply for a VRO one must complete an application at one of the Magistrates Courts, preferably a court closest to where they live. The application will be heard by either a Registrar, Magistrate or Justice of the Peace. Applications are heard on what’s known as an ex-parte basis, this means by the applicant only, the respondent is not in court when the application is initially made.
If the VRO is granted, then it is only an interim VRO. The interim VRO is then served on the respondent by the police. The respondent then has 21 days to lodge an objection with the court. If the respondent does nothing, that is ignores the VRO, then the VRO will be made on a final basis. The time period for a final VRO is usually for 2 years.
If the respondent lodges an objection to defend the VRO, then the matter will be listed for a trial. Both parties give their evidence at the trial and the Magistrate will decide whether the VRO has merit to be made on a final basis or whether the VRO should be dismissed.
When does a VRO become a criminal dealing?
As stated above, a VRO itself is a civil matter. It becomes a criminal matter if the respondent breaches one or more of the conditions of the VRO. There are criminal penalties that apply for breaching a VRO including prison terms.
What can you do?
If you, or someone you know may be suffering abuse and require assistance further information can be found on the Department of The Attorney General’s website: http://www.courts.dotag.wa.gov.au/R/restraining_orders.aspx or on the Legal Aid of Western Australia website: http://www.legalaid.wa.gov.au/
Alternatively, if you, or someone you know requires legal assistance to obtain a VRO, defend a VRO or is in breach of a VRO our associate, Pauline German can be of assistance.
About the author
Pauline German is an Associate at Lynn & Brown Lawyers. Pauline is an expert in marriage and de facto disputes, property matters, divorce proceedings, traffic offences, violence restraining orders and children’s matters.