COVID-19 and respondents accused of family violence

COVID-19 and respondents accused of family violence

If you are accused of using family violence during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, there are four things you need to know:

  • coronavirus is stressful for everyone. It is not an excuse for abusing family members or making them feel unsafe
  • you can get help if you think you are making your family members feel unsafe
  • whether you can live with your partner or see your children depends on your situation
  • you should get legal advice. See Get help with family violence.

What is family violence?

Family violence is harmful behaviour by a person to their family members. It includes being violent, abusive, controlling or causing fear. It can be physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, social or financial. It can also include damaging property. For children, it includes seeing, hearing or being exposed to this behaviour.

 Controlling behaviours might increase during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Staying home and social distancing are not an excuse for using controlling behaviour.

See More information to find out more about family violence.

Can I get help with family violence?

Yes. Family violence support services are still open. Some of these services are now provided over the phone or internet.

 You can still:

Victoria Legal Aid and community legal centres still have duty lawyer services at Magistrates’ Courts around Victoria. You can arrange a duty lawyer:

  • before your court date – call Legal Help on 1300 792 387  
  • on your court date – call your nearest Victoria Legal Aid office.

For more information about services that can help, see Get help with family violence.

Do I have to go to court?

You should usually go to court if you have a hearing for a family violence safety notice or intervention order. However, courts are changing the way they work in response to COVID-19 coronavirus. If you have a lawyer representing you, you may not need to go to court.

You can talk to a duty lawyer on the telephone. You do not have to be at court to get help from a duty lawyer. Legal Help can help you to talk to a free duty lawyer who can represent you in court. You should call Legal Help on 1300 792 387 as soon as possible before your hearing day.

It is important to get legal advice about:

  • whether you need to go to court
  • your options in deciding how to respond to an intervention order application or safety notice
  • working out what will happen with children
  • any crimes the police might charge you with.

See Get help with family violence.

If you do not go to court, you can find out what happened by contacting:

  • the police, if they applied for the family violence intervention order
  • your duty lawyer, if you had one
  • the Magistrates’ Court.

What if my court date is delayed?

The court is adjourning (delaying) some intervention order hearings. If your case is adjourned, the court will let you know the new date for your hearing.

The court might have sent you a letter saying your case was adjourned to 15 June 2020. The court is changing that hearing date for many people. The court will send you a letter to tell you your new hearing date. You do not need to go to court on 15 June 2020 but must attend on the new hearing date.

If you do not get a letter about your new court date by 8 June 2020, contact the Magistrates’ Court.  

If it is not safe for you to get a letter about your new court date, tell the Magistrates’ Court urgently.

If there is an interim (temporary) intervention order against you, it will be extended to the new court date. You must continue to follow the conditions (rules) in the order, or police can charge you with a crime.

Can I see my children?

It depends on your situation.

Get legal advice about whether you can spend time with your children and other parenting issues. See Get help with family violence.

The court may encourage you to try to work things out, with help from a family dispute resolution service if needed. Victoria Legal Aid's Family Dispute Resolution Service can help people resolve family law disputes. Other family dispute resolution services are also available. These services are likely to be impacted by COVID-19 coronavirus and there may be longer delays.

Can I go to counselling or Men’s Behaviour Change programs?

If you have an intervention order, you must do what it says. If your order says to go to counselling or a course you should try to do this.

If you already attend a Men’s Behaviour Change Group or counselling service, ask if they can still support you. Many services are now providing support over the phone.

If you have not enrolled in a course, contact No to Violence/Men’s Referral Service for a referral to a service near you.

Can I live with my partner?

It depends.

You must not live with your partner if:

  • there is a family violence intervention order that says you must not go to your partner’s home
  • there is a police safety notice that says you must not go to your partner’s home.

You must not contact your partner if an intervention order or safety notice says you cannot.

If you do not follow the rules in the intervention order or safety notice, you are breaking the law. The police can charge you with a crime.

If you want to live together or have contact with your partner, you can apply for permission to vary (change) the order at your local Magistrates’ Court.

You can live with your partner if they want to live together and:

  • you do not have a family violence intervention order or police safety notice
  • you have an intervention order or safety notice, but it does not say you must stay away from your partner’s home.

More information

Learn more about legal issues and COVID-19 coronavirus

Visit our ‘Find legal answers’ page on Family violence intervention orders

Download or order our free Family violence and intervention order publications

Where to get help

See Get help with family violence

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