Family Law Library

What if my spouse is violent?

Hi. I’m Vanessa Mathews from Mathews Family Law and I want to discuss family or domestic violence with you today.

If you’re in a violent or abusive situation within your home, please spend a few minutes listening to this video to learn more about your rights and what you can do and remember that you’re not alone. There are many agencies that provide services to families suffering from family violence. See our website at MathewsFamilyLaw.com.au under the tab “violence” to find out which agencies can help you.

The first thing you need to know is what exactly is family violence. According to the law, family violence or abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, and even financial.

Restraining law protects spouses, children, relatives, and even other individuals living in the house where there is family violence.

What can you do about violence? Australia has something called an AVO. Sometimes this is also called an intervention order, a protection order, or an apprehended violence order. The aim is to protect those in danger or to prevent the violent or abusive person from continuing their abuse.

You need to go to the courts to apply for an AVO and the court will have to consider all of the circumstances but the court’s main concern is the well-being and safety of the person being hurt or abused.

Another important question is who is covered by this order or who is the family member? Because in order to get an AVO you have to show that there is a relationship. There are 5 types of relationships covered by the law. One is people who share an intimate relationship, like a marriage, or a de facto couple, essentially a spouse or partner. The second is parents and children, so if there is abuse by a parent or child, the other can request an AVO. The third group is other relatives and this includes people related by birth, or adoption, or marriage. The fourth group is people who are like family members, such as guardians or caregivers. The fifth group is people who used to be family members, for example, an ex-spouse.

When you go to get an AVO, you’ll fill out an application either at the magistrates court if you’re over 18 or at the children’s court if you’re 14 to 18 years old or if you’re an adult applying for an order for a child. The application asks a lot of questions about the sides. The person asking for the order is called the protected person and the person who the order is against is called the respondent.

When you apply for an AVO, you also have to detail what you want the restraining order to do and this can be any number of things. It can prevent the respondent from harming people or property or from approaching or coming near certain people. It can prevent the respondent from putting up information on the internet about the protected person. You have to detail what you want the order to protect.

Once you file an application for an AVO, there will be a hearing at court. The respondent has a chance to answer the request for protection. The respondent might agree to the request and the judge or registrar will give the AVO. The respondent might ask for what’s called an undertaking which means he or she makes a promise to the protected person and the judge that the respondent will do or not do certain things. If the applicant agrees, the application for the AVO is withdrawn and instead there is an undertaking.

But you can refile for an AVO if the respondent doesn’t follow the conditions of the undertaking or promise. If the respondent contests or fights the application, then another date for a hearing will be set and it’s almost like a trial where the court hears evidence from both sides. If the respondent just doesn’t show up to the first hearing, the court will listen to the applicant and the reasons for making the request and then decide whether or not to give an AVO.

You can read more about family violence on our website or contact me. Do what you need to do to protect yourself or your family and contact somebody who can help you. I’m Vanessa Mathews from Mathews Family Law.