Victoria Legal Aid

Respondent options for dealing with a family violence intervention order

Options to help you decide how you want to respond when an application for a family violence intervention order has been made against you.

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.

RespondentsExternal Link to a family violence intervention order have four options. You can:

  • agree to an intervention order being made
  • ask for an undertakingExternal Link
  • argue against the order
  • ignore the summons and not go to court.

What is a family violence intervention order?

A family violence intervention order is a court order to protect a person from family violenceExternal Link .

Learn more about family violence and intervention ordersExternal Link .

Family violence and intervention orders are serious. It is important to talk to a lawyer as soon as possibleExternal Link . A lawyer can talk to you about your options.

What if I don’t have a lawyer?

If you do not have your own lawyerExternal Link , you may be able to meet with a duty lawyerExternal Link at court. You do not have to pay for a duty lawyer. Duty lawyers only help on the day of your hearing.

When you arrive at court, tell the registrarExternal Link (a person who works for the court) if you would like to meet with a duty lawyer.

Option 1 – agree to an intervention order being made

You can go to the court hearing and agree to the intervention order being made. This is called consent. It means that you agree to obey the intervention order's conditions (rules). Learn more about conditionsExternal Link .

If you agree to the order a magistrateExternal Link can make a decision quickly. You may not need to go back to court.

You can agree to the conditions even if you do not agree with what is said about you in the application. This is called ‘consent without admissions’. The court then makes an order without deciding whether you used family violence or not.

Agreeing to an intervention order does not give you a criminal record. You are not being charged with a crime. It is a civil matter, not a criminal offence. However, if you do not follow the intervention order, it can become a criminal matter. The police might arrest you and charge you with an offence. Learn more about breaching an orderExternal Link .

You should get legal advice before your hearing. A lawyer can explain how conditions work in real life and how they might affect you depending on your situation.

At court, your lawyer (including a duty lawyer) may be able to help ask for different conditions to what is in the application.

If you do not have a lawyer at the hearing, you can still ask the magistrate to change or not include certain conditions. For example, if a condition will make it difficult for you to do your job.

If you agree to an intervention order, you can still apply for family law orders about children and property. This can be complicated so you should get legal advice.

Option 2 – agree to an undertaking instead of an order

Sometimes an applicantExternal Link will accept an undertakingExternal Link . An undertaking is a written promise to the person who needs protecting and to the court that you will follow certain conditions. You can only give an undertaking if the applicant agrees to it. The applicant does not have to accept an undertaking. It is their choice.

If the police applied for the intervention order, they will run the matter at court. They are less likely to agree to an undertaking, so you may need to consider other options.

If the applicant agrees to an undertaking, their application for an intervention order is withdrawn, which means stopped. However, they could go back to court and ask for an intervention order in the future.

If you do not follow the undertaking’s conditions, the police cannot charge you unless you have broken the law. However, the police or affected family memberExternal Link can apply again for an intervention order.

If you break the rules of an undertaking, the court is more likely to make an intervention order because you broke your promise. The court takes this very seriously.

Option 3 – argue against the order

If you do not agree with the application, you can go to the court hearing and argue against the order or any of the conditions. This is called contesting.

Get legal advice before the hearing. If you do not have your own lawyer, a duty lawyer may be able to help you contest the application in court.

Your first hearing is called the first mention dateExternal Link .

The magistrate will not ask you to tell your whole case at a mention hearing. This may happen later. You will need to go back to court for a directions hearing, and then for a contested hearingExternal Link .

If you have an interim orderExternal Link against you, that order will usually continue until the contested hearing.

Contested hearing

A contested hearing is when the magistrate hears all the evidenceExternal Link from both sides, including witnesses. The police might also give evidence.

The contested hearing will be at least 28 days after your first mention date.

A magistrate might not set a date until both sides:

  • have had a chance to get a lawyer
  • are ready for the contested hearing
  • agree to the date of the contested hearing.

Preparing your witnesses

If you have witnesses who can support what you say, you will need to arrange them for the contested hearing. Witnesses must have seen or heard something themselves, not just rely on what you or someone else has told them.

You may need to send them a court document that tells them when they must come to court (a summonsExternal Link ). Ask the registrarExternal Link (a person who works for the court) how to do this.

If you do not agree with the intervention order, you will need to convince the magistrate that:

  • the claims made against you are false
  • you are not a risk to the affected family member.

Preparing for the contested hearing

If you have not spoken to a lawyer yet, you should now. Ask them what you need to prepare for the contested hearing.

If a lawyer is not representing you at the hearing, you will not be able to cross-examine (question) the affected family member or any children.

If you cannot afford a lawyer, the magistrate can make an order for Victoria Legal Aid to arrange one for you, just for cross-examination. Contact the Magistrates’ Court of VictoriaExternal Link and ask for the court registrar to find out more.

What if I have previous criminal charges?

If the police have charged you with a criminal offence to do with family violence, the court will deal with your case more quickly.

A contested hearing for the intervention order will only be listed once your criminal charges have been dealt with.

Option 4 – ignore the summons and do not go to court

If you ignore the summons, the hearing can go ahead without you. You cannot delay the hearing by not going to court. The magistrate can make an order without hearing your case.

The magistrate can also make decisions about contact with your children, even if the applicant did not include them in the application. Learn more about children and family violence intervention orders.

Even if you accept the intervention order, it is worth going to court to:

If you are not at court, the police will give you a copy of the intervention order after it has been made. The order starts when the police give it to you. Learn more about when an intervention order startsExternal Link .

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 adviceExternal Link first.

If your circumstances change and it becomes difficult to manage the order, you may be able to apply to change or cancel it.

Learn more about appealing or changing an intervention order.

Key things to remember

  • Family violence and intervention orders are serious. It is important to get legal advice as soon as possibleExternal Link .
  • Learn more about getting ready to go to your court hearing.
  • You:
    • have options for responding to an intervention order application
    • can agree to the application and intervention order being made
    • can agree to an intervention order being made but not what the application says you did (called ‘consenting with admissions’)
    • can ask for an undertaking instead of an intervention order
    • can contest (argue against) the order – this will mean you have to go to multiple court hearings
    • can ask the magistrate to change or not include certain conditions if they will be difficult to live with.
  • If you do not go to the hearing, the magistrate can still make an intervention order.
  • There are counselling and support services you can talk to before, during and after 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
  • services to support you if you are First Nations, LGBTIQA+, a migrant, refugee, young or older person
  • services and counselling for people who use family violence
  • free booklets, fact sheets, videos and other publications and resources.

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 05 June 2024

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