Victoria Legal Aid

Going to court for a family violence intervention order – affected family members

Information to help you prepare for a family violence intervention order hearing. This page is for people who are to be protected by the intervention order.

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.

This information may help you get ready for a family violence intervention order hearing if you are an:

You can get free legal help and family violence support.

If you are a respondent (the person the application is against) visit going to court for respondents.

When and where is my hearing?

Your court document will say the date, time and location of your hearing. You will get a court document if:

The document will be an application and summons, application and warrant or a family violence safety notice.

Do I have to go to the hearing?

It is best to go to your hearing, whether in person or online, so that you can have a say about the intervention order. If you do not go, the magistrate might still make an intervention order or dismiss the application.

Can I change the hearing date?

Changing the date may be possible, but it can be hard to do. Contact the court as soon as you can to ask.

You can find contact details for your court using the Find a court toolExternal Link .

Can I attend the hearing online?

It is often possible to attend the hearing remotely without going to the court building. This is to help you feel safer during the hearing.

How do I arrange a remote hearing?

Contact the court as soon as possible to let them know you would like to attend the hearing online. Court staff will discuss your options with you.

If a remote hearing is possible, the court may be able to arrange a secure location and a family violence worker to support you on the day. You might also be able to attend online from your home or another location.

Learn more about remote hearingsExternal Link .

How can I prepare for the hearing?

Learn more with our video Going to court – how to plan for your day.

Family violence support

There are family violence services that can support you before, during and after court. They can answer your questions, help plan for your safety and find other services. You can get free help.

Family violence services include Safe StepsExternal Link , The Orange DoorExternal Link , 1800RESPECTExternal Link and others. Learn more at Other support for violence, abuse and personal safety.

Going to court is a legal process, so it is important to get legal advice (talk to a lawyer) as soon as you can.

Legal advice will help you prepare for the hearing, especially if you:

  • are unsure how an intervention order can protect you
  • have children who may be affected by the order
  • are on a visa (are not an Australian permanent resident or citizen)
  • already have a family court or children’s court order
  • disagree with the police making the application.

At some courts there are lawyers who can help you at court on your hearing day. These are called duty lawyers.

If someone is trying to scare you out of going to court or withdrawing your application, tell the police immediately.

Contact the court

As soon as possible, it is best to fill in a Pre-court information formExternal Link . This will help the court understand what support you need and how to safely contact you. You can also phone or email the court.

Before your hearing date, you can ask the court about:

The court can help plan for your safety when arriving, leaving or waiting at court, and during the hearing. Some courts have separate entrances and safe waiting areas so you do not have to wait in the same area as the respondent.

Think about what conditions you want in the order

Before your hearing, it is a good idea to think about what order conditions (rules) you would like to protect you. You can get legal advice about this.

If the police applied for the order

The police applicant’s name will be on the application you received. It is a good idea to talk to the police before the hearing to:

  • understand what will happen
  • understand what the police want
  • tell them what you want to happen and what conditions you want the order to have.

If you do not agree with something the police want, you should get independent legal advice. Even though the police and magistrate can make an order without your consent, it is important that you have a say. If you do not agree to a final order being made, there are limits on what conditions the magistrate can include.

Learn more at What the police do about family violence.

Prepare your evidence

Before the hearing, it is a good idea to prepare your evidence.

Evidence is information used in court to help the magistrate make a decision.

You do not need to bring any witnesses to your first hearing.

Plan to be at court all day

Even if your documents say to arrive in the morning, your hearing might be much later that day. It can help to plan ahead. Here are some things you may want to consider:

  • If you have children under 18, try to arrange care for them so they do not have to come to court with you. Children may not be allowed in the courtroom during the hearing, to protect them from hearing about violence. If your children are at childcare or school, consider asking someone to pick them up and stay with them until you get home. If you cannot arrange care for your children on the hearing day, contact the court to discuss your options.
  • Wear clothes that are comfortable and neat. Sometimes emotions, like stress, can make you feel extra hot or cold, so consider bringing layers. You can wear culturally significant clothing, such as a headscarf.
  • Plan how you will get to and from court safely. You might ask someone to drive or travel with you on public transport. Consider where you will park and whether you may need to pay for this. Allow extra time so you do not worry about being late.
  • Take the day off work if you can. You can access paid family and domestic violence leaveExternal Link .
  • Think about how you can take care of yourself before, during and after court. Going to court can bring up a lot of emotions. If you find it difficult or tiring, know that this is common and you are not alone. You could talk to a trusted friend, family member or support service.

If you can, it is a good idea to bring:

  • any court documents and paperwork you have about your case – paper or digital copies
  • your phone, charger and a power bank – it might be difficult to find a place to charge your phone at court
  • snacks and water – you may not wish to leave the waiting area when waiting for your case to be called, so you may want to bring some food and drinks
  • any medication you need to take during the day
  • things to help you feel comfortable and pass the time, like photos, magazines or crossword puzzles
  • a friend, family member, advocate or support worker – they can wait with you and help you understand what happens on the day.

Courts usually close for an hour at lunchtime. This is a good opportunity to get some fresh air.

The court is likely to be busy with lots of people waiting for their hearing. Being as prepared as possible may help you feel more comfortable.

What will happen at court?

Arriving at court

Before the hearing date, you can contact the court to check what time you need to be there. It is usually best to arrive 30 minutes before the court’s first hearing of the day.

If you have made safety arrangements with the court, arrive when they have told you to.

When you get to court, you will go through a security screening. This is to stop people bringing items that are not allowed into courtExternal Link , like drugs or anything that could be used as a weapon. Make sure you do not bring anything sharp, such as a pocketknife. It is also best not to bring glass bottles or containers.

You might need to go through a metal detector. Security staff might use a wand to scan your body.

After security, go to the family violence counter and tell the registrar (a person who works for the court) you have arrived. Talk to the registrar about:

  • any safety arrangements you have made with the court, or if you do not feel safe
  • if you have arranged to meet a support worker, interpreter or duty lawyer – the registrar may be able to help you find them
  • whether you can meet with a duty lawyer or support worker, if you have not already arranged this
  • which courtroom your hearing will be in.

You can wait in the waiting area or courtroom. Do not go too far away. You need to be able to hear your name being called when the magistrate is ready for you. If you are worried you will not hear your name, tell the registrar.

In the courtroom

Learn more about what happens during a hearing.

If you can, you must:

  • bow to the magistrate when you (or they) enter and leave the courtroom
  • call the magistrate 'Your Honour' when you speak to them
  • stand when the magistrate speaks to you and when you speak to them
  • speak clearly and answer all questions the magistrate asks you.

If you do not have a lawyer in the courtroom

When your name is called, go behind the large table at the front of the courtroom and face the magistrate. The magistrate or clerk (the person who helps the magistrate) will tell you what to do.

If you are attending online

Keep your microphone muted and video off, except when the magistrate is dealing with your case. It is important to behave respectfully, like you would if you were in the courtroom.

After the hearing

After the magistrate finishes with your case, you can leave the courtroom. You must wait at court for a copy of the order or other paperwork. If there is a reason you cannot wait, tell the registrar.

Read the order or paperwork before you leave. Ask your lawyer or the court staff to explain anything you do not understand.

Disagreeing 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.

What support services are at court?

There are workers who can support you on the day of your hearing. Their support is optional and may be in person or over the phone.

It is best to contact the court as soon as possible before your hearing to give the services time to arrange support. Even if your hearing is very soon, it is still worth asking if they can help.

You can also ask the registrar when you arrive at court whether any support workers are available that day.

You do not have to pay for these services.

Applicant practitioners

Applicant practitionersExternal Link work for the court. They can give you non-legal information, support and advice about family violence, court and the intervention order process.

They can help you plan for your safety when arriving, leaving and returning home after court. They can also refer you to a range of support services.

Court Network

Court Network is a community service whose trained volunteers give support and information about going to court. They may be able to show you around and help you feel safe. They can also refer you to other services for support after the hearing. Court Network volunteers cannot give legal advice.

You can ask the court or contact Court NetworkExternal Link .

Information referral officers

Information referral officers are available at some courts to help you deal with the court process. They can give you non-legal information about many things and help you understand:

  • the court process
  • family violence and intervention orders
  • what support services might be best for you.

They can also make referrals and connect you with:

  • family violence support services
  • counselling services.

You can ask the court or Victoria Legal Aid whether an information referral officer is available at your court.

First Nations support

Specialist services are available to help with legal problems and court matters if you:

  • are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
  • are a non-Aboriginal partner or family member of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person
  • are a parent or carer of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child.

Learn more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander supportExternal Link .

You can contact the court you are going to or the services directly.

LGBTIQA+ support

Specialist workers and services are available to support you if you are LGBTIQA+.

Learn more by downloading the court brochureExternal Link .

You can contact the court you are going to or the services directly.

What if I feel unsafe when leaving or after court?

If you feel unsafe or need urgent help after leaving court, phone the police on 000.

You can ask court staff or a support worker if they can arrange someone to help you leave court safely. For example, to walk you to your car. They might also be able to ensure you leave court at a different time to the respondent.

If a friend or support person has joined you at court, ask them to leave with you.

If attending court on your own, tell someone you trust about your plans for the day. Let them know when you plan to return home. Check in with this person regularly.

It is a good idea to create a safety plan, even if you are not sure whether you need it. Talk to a support worker or family violence service about this.

Key things to remember

  • It is important to get legal advice as soon as possible.
  • There are services that can help you before, during and after court. You can ask the court or contact a family violence support service.
  • Contact the court to arrange an interpreter, ask about accessibility, safety or other support.
  • You might be able to attend your hearing online. Remember to keep your microphone and camera off until the magistrate is dealing with your case.
  • You might be at court all day. Consider arranging childcare, snacks, your phone charger and medication. Take the day off work if you can. You might be able to get paid family violence leaveExternal Link .
  • Bring any paperwork you have about your matter.
  • You can bring a friend or support person.
  • When you get to court, go to the front counter and let them know you have arrived.
  • Bow to the magistrate when you (or they) enter and leave the courtroom.
  • Stand when the magistrate speaks to you and when you speak to them, if you can.
  • Call the magistrate ‘Your Honour’. Speak clearly and answer all questions they ask you.
  • After the hearing, stay at court to get a copy of the order or paperwork.
  • You may have more than one hearing and need to come back to court.

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 services you can talk to about your situation and to help plan for your safety
  • 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.

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.

We help Victorians with their legal problems and represent those who need it most. Find legal answers, chat with us online, or call us. You can speak to us in English or ask for an interpreter. You can also find more legal information at www.legalaid.vic.gov.au

Reviewed 17 May 2024

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