Victoria Legal Aid

What can happen at a family violence intervention order hearing

What happens in the courtroom during a family violence intervention order hearing depends on how the respondent chooses to respond to the intervention order.

What happens in the courtroom during a family violence intervention order hearing depends on how the respondent chooses to respond to the intervention order.

The respondent can:

  • agree to an intervention order being made
  • ask for an undertaking instead of an order
  • contest (argue against) the order
  • ignore the summons or safety notice and not go to court.

If the respondent agrees to the order

The magistrate will check that the respondent agrees to the intervention order being made.

The respondent can agree to:

  • everything in the application
  • the conditions in the application, but disagree with the applicant’s description about what happened in the application (this is called ‘consent without admissions’)
  • the duration of the order
  • an order being made, but ask the magistrate to change the conditions to make it more workable so they don’t risk breaking the order.

The magistrate will ask the applicant what they think about any changes before they make a final decision.

If the respondent agrees to an undertaking

A respondent can ask the applicant whether they would accept an undertaking. This is a formal written promise to the person who needs protecting and the magistrate to follow certain conditions.

The applicant does not have to accept an undertaking. It’s their choice.

Where the Victoria Police are the applicant on behalf of an affected family member, it is very rare that the police will accept an undertaking.

If both sides agree to an undertaking, the application for an intervention order is withdrawn. There is no court order. However, if the respondent disobeys the conditions, the applicant can still go ahead with their original application. This is called a 'right of reinstatement'.

Breaking the conditions of an undertaking is not a crime. This means the police may not be involved if it is broken.

Get legal advice before agreeing to this option.

If the respondent argues against the order

If the respondent wants to challenge the intervention order being made, the magistrate will not hear their arguments at the first hearing. This is called the first mention date.

Direction hearings

You will need to go back to court for a directions hearing. This is another procedural hearing, and the magistrate will not be able to hear any evidence on that day. If the respondent is still contesting the order, then the respondent and the applicant will need to advise the court if:

  • they require interpreters at the final hearing
  • they will be calling any witnesses at the final hearing
  • they will have a lawyer
  • there is any further evidence that they need to get from the other party
  • they are ready for a final contested hearing.

If the respondent or applicant do not already have a lawyer, then the magistrate may make an order that our organisation appoint them one.

Final contest hearing

The final hearing is called a contested hearing. This is when the magistrate hears all the evidence from both sides, including witnesses.

At the final contested hearing, the magistrate will listen to the applicant first, then the respondent. If the respondent turns up without a lawyer, he or she may not be able to tell their side of the story, use their witnesses, or cross-examine witnesses.

If you are the respondent and your case is listed for a final contested hearing, you should get legal advice if you do not already have a lawyer.

If the respondent is not at court

If the respondent does not show up at the first court hearing, the magistrate will ask the applicant why the intervention order is needed.

If the applicant is not the person who needs protecting, the magistrate may also want to hear from them (unless they are a child). They may have to give evidence in the witness box and swear an oath (or make an affirmation) to tell the truth.

The person who needs protecting should also tell the magistrate in their own words why they:

  • don’t feel safe
  • are afraid the respondent will continue to be a threat.

If there is an interim order, the magistrate may check if the situation has changed. Tell the magistrate if anything has happened since the order was made.

Sometimes the police may have difficulty finding the respondent to serve them with the court documents. If the respondent did not know about the court hearing, the magistrate may set another date for the hearing. The magistrate can also make an interim order or extend an existing order.

If the applicant does not attend the hearing

If the applicant does not come to court, the magistrate might cancel the intervention order application. Get legal advice.

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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Reviewed 12 April 2022

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