Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.

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Family violence and family violence intervention orders

Information about family violence intervention orders. Family violence is harmful behaviour by a person that makes their family member unsafe or feel unsafe.

Anyone can experience family violence

It happens across communities and in all kinds of relationships.

Your experience of family violence might be different to someone else’s. A family violence intervention order is one way you can get protection. 

Our My safety tool can help you understand common separation issues, plan for your safety and find support.

You can also learn more about family violence support services.

Family violence is harmful behaviour by a person that makes their family member unsafe or feel unsafe. It can include physical violence, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse and other behaviours.

‘Family member’ means people you are related to, treat like family or have had an intimate personal relationship with, whether short or long-term. It can mean a carer or support worker.

A family violence intervention order is a court order to protect someone from family violence.

There are legal and specialist support services that can help you.

What is family violence?

Everyone should feel safe in their relationships. Nobody has the right to hurt, threaten, harass or intimidate you. This includes people in your family, as well as people you treat like family or have had an intimate personal relationship with.

It does not matter where you were born, your age, disability, gender, sexuality, or what kind of relationship or family you are in.

Family violence is when someone makes their ‘family member’ unsafe or feel unsafe. It can start with small things and get worse over time. It does not mean that bad things are happening all the time.

Family violence is sometimes called domestic violence or intimate partner violence.

Family violence may include:

  • emotional or psychological abuse, such as serious name calling or putting someone down, or stopping them from seeing family or friends
  • physical abuse, such as hitting or pushing a person
  • sexual abuse, such as forcing a person to have sex or take part in sexual acts
  • financial or economic abuse, such as forcing someone to pay a dowry or controlling their money without their consent
  • controlling behaviour, such as forcing a family member into marriage, or using technology to track where they go and what they do without their consent
  • coercive behaviour, such as intimidating, threatening or forcing a person into doing something.

Family violence is also behaviour that makes someone fear for their safety, or the safety of:

  • their things or property
  • another family member
  • a pet.

Children are badly affected by family violence. The law says that a child also suffers family violence and should be protected if they:

  • hear or see family violence
  • comfort or help a family member who has been hurt
  • see property in the family home that has been damaged through family violence
  • are present when the police arrive for a family violence incident.

Who is a family member?

Under family violence law, ‘family member’ has a special meaning. Family member can mean:

  • people who share an intimate personal relationship, even if it was short-term or there was no sexual relationship – for example, married, de facto or domestic partners, boyfriend, girlfriend or people who dated
  • parents and children, including step-children
  • relatives by birth, marriage or adoption
  • people we treat like a family member – for example, a carer, support worker, guardian or people related within the family structure of our culture.

The law also protects a person from anyone who was a family member in the past, such as an ex-partner.

What is a family violence intervention order?

A family violence intervention order is a court order that aims to protect a person from someone who has used family violence. An intervention order can also protect children, property or people supporting the protected person.

The person:

  • applying for the order is called the applicant – this may be a police officer or someone seeking protection themselves
  • who the order will protect is called the affected family member when the application is made, or the ‘protected person’ once an order is made
  • accused of family violence is called the respondent.

The order has conditions (rules) that the respondent must follow. If the respondent does not follow the conditions, it is very serious and the police can charge them with a criminal offence. Learn more about breaching an intervention order.

There are two types of family violence intervention orders:

  • Interim order – a temporary order the magistrate makes if they believe a person needs protecting immediately. An interim order lasts until a magistrate decides whether to make a final order. While the interim order is in place, the respondent must follow its conditions. If they do not, the police might charge them with a criminal offence.
  • Final order – an order made if a magistrate believes the respondent has used family violence and is likely to again. The order will last until the end date set by the magistrate.

If the final order is followed and working, the court may not get involved again. The court will get involved again if someone applies to change, cancel or extend the order.

The respondent will not get a criminal record if an order is made. However, it may affect licenses to work in jobs that need security clearance.

What are conditions?

Intervention orders have conditions. These are rules that the respondent must follow to stop them using family violence.

Not every order has the same conditions. Applicants and affected family members can ask for certain conditions to help them feel safer, based on their situation. Examples are listed under Conditions on the application form.

At the court hearing, the respondent can also ask the magistrate to change or not include certain conditions. For example, if a condition will make it difficult for them to do their job.

The magistrate will listen to both sides but ultimately decides what conditions to include in an interim or final order. In choosing the conditions, the magistrate will do what they think is safest for the affected family member and children.

Conditions on the application form

There are conditions on the application form that the applicant can ask to be included in the order. Examples include stopping the respondent from:

  • using family violence against the protected person
  • living in the same home as the protected person (called an exclusion order)
  • intentionally damaging the protected person’s property or threatening to do so
  • attempting to find or follow the protected person or keep them under surveillance
  • publishing on the internet or by email or other electronic communication any material about the protected person
  • contacting or communicating with the protected person
  • approaching or remaining within a certain distance of the protected person
  • going to or staying within a certain distance of where the protected person lives, works or attends school or childcare
  • getting another person to do anything the respondent must not do under the order.

You can learn more about Applying for a family violence intervention order.

Other conditions

The applicant can ask the magistrate to order the respondent to:

  • return personal property of the protected person or a family member
  • return jointly owned property that allows the protected person’s everyday life to continue with little disruption
  • hand in any guns or weapons to police
  • suspend or cancel any firearms authority, weapons approval or weapons exemption.

The applicant can also tell the registrar (a person who works for the court) if they want to:

  • include any other conditions that will make them feel safe
  • apply the conditions to someone else the respondent knows.

The order may include specific circumstances where the respondent is allowed to do something that the conditions say they cannot. This is called an exception.

For example, they might be allowed to communicate with the protected person through a lawyer. Or they may be able to collect their things from the family home if a police officer or another approved person is with them.

The magistrate can make an exception that allows parents to communicate in writing (emails or text messages) for the purpose of child arrangements only.

The magistrate can also change or suspend a parenting order. Learn more about Children and family violence intervention orders.

The respondent must follow the conditions, even if the protected person tells them it is okay not to. The respondent could get in serious trouble if they breach the order.

If you want to change the order, you must apply to the court.

How can an intervention order protect children?

Children may be included in a parent’s intervention order or have a separate order.

Learn more about Children and family violence intervention orders.

I received a family violence safety notice – what does this mean?

The police can apply for a family violence safety notice if someone needs immediate protection.

The safety notice has conditions (rules) the respondent must follow. If they do not follow the conditions, it is serious and the police can arrest them.

Learn more about Family violence safety notices.

What can I do if I feel unsafe?

If you need urgent help, phone the police on 000.

Whether or not you are sure that your situation involves family violence, you can talk to a family violence or legal service. They can answer your questions and help you understand your options.

You can get information about your options and who to contact by using our My safety tool.

You may wish to talk to people you trust, like a friend, family member, doctor or someone in your community.

You can also apply for a family violence intervention order.

Who can apply for a family violence intervention order?

Applying for an intervention order

If you are over 18, you can contact your local Magistrates’ Court to apply or fill in an online application form.

If you are under 18 or applying for a child under 18, you can apply through the Children’s Court of Victoria.

You can also ask Victoria Police to apply for you.

Learn more about Applying for a family violence intervention order.

The police can apply

If the police believe family violence has happened they can apply for an intervention order.

They can do this even if a family member has not asked for it.

The magistrate will consider whether the person to be protected wants the order but can make one even if they do not agree. When this happens, there are limits on the types of conditions the magistrate can include in the final order.

For more information visit What the police do about family violence.

Whether or not you agree with the police application, it is important to get legal advice.

Can an order be changed or extended?

The applicant, protected person or respondent can ask the court to vary (change) the order if:

  • the conditions are very difficult to live with
  • there has been a significant change in circumstances since the final order was made.

The respondent must ask the court for permission before applying to change the order.

Learn more about changing an intervention order.

If the order is due to end soon, the applicant or protected person can apply to extend it. They must do this before the order ends. Learn more about extending an order.

What if I disagree with the magistrate’s decision?

If you are unhappy with the magistrate’s decision or with the conditions of the order, you might be able to appeal to the County Court.

To be able to appeal, you will need to show that the magistrate made an error when deciding your case. You must appeal within 30 days of the magistrate’s decision. Get legal advice first.

Learn more about appealing or changing an intervention order.

Key things to remember

  • It is important to get legal advice as soon as possible.
  • Whether you are sure that your situation involves family violence, you can talk to a family violence or legal service. You may want to use our My safety tool. It can be difficult to talk to someone but help is available.
  • Everyone should feel safe in their relationships. Nobody has the right to hurt, threaten, harass or intimidate a family member.
  • ‘Family member’ has a special meaning in family violence law.
  • Police can apply for an intervention order if they believe family violence has occurred. They can do this even if family members do not ask for it.
  • Conditions in an intervention order are rules that the respondent must follow.
  • Breaching an intervention order is serious and could result in a criminal record. The respondent must not breach the order even if the protected person says they can.

More support and information

Visit Other support for violence, abuse and personal safety for information about:

  • legal services and how to find a lawyer
  • family violence and support services you can talk to about your situation
  • services to support you if you are First Nations, LGBTIQA+, a migrant, refugee, young or older person
  • free booklets, fact sheets, videos, and other publications and resources.


My safety tool campaign image

Are you thinking about separating, or experiencing domestic, family or sexual violence?

The My safety tool can assist you to understand common separation issues, connect you with services and help you plan for your safety.