Police and legal response
Safety is the highest priority
Depending on the circumstances, there are a range of actions police can take.
If a crime has been committed police will investigate and may pursue charges.
Investigation and prosecution can take time so immediate safety for people who have been harmed or are at risk must be the priority.
Immediate civil (ie. non-criminal) actions to manage risk and increase safety that police can take are to:
- issue a Family Violence Safety Notice (FVSN) to create immediate protection and/or
- apply to the court for a Family Violence Intervention Order (FVIO), or
- change an existing Intervention Order to increase protection
What is a Family Violence Intervention Order?
A Family Violence Intervention Order (FVIO) is a legal order issued by a court that aims to protect people from further family violence.
If an FVIO is issued it applies and will be enforced anywhere in Australia. Similarly, if a domestic violence order is issued in another state (orders may have different technical names) it will apply and be enforced in Victoria.
The Family Violence Safety Notice is like a short term intervention order issued by police that aims to protect people until court. They both use some technical terms.
- the person being protected, including any child, is called the 'protected person'
- the person who has committed family violence is called the 'respondent' or 'other party'
The notice or order can also include an exclusion condition, which creates a safety zone around the person needing protection and any children.
It prohibits the person who has used family violence from coming near them or the places they go.
This may mean the person who has used family violence needs to live somewhere else.
An exclusion condition lasts until:
- the notice or order expires
- a court decision to vary; or
- a new Family Violence Intervention Order is served on the respondent
On the court day, a Magistrate considers what measures are necessary to provide ongoing protection.
The Magistrate will decide if the exclusion condition needs to continue.
A Family Violence Safety Notice (FVSN) or Family Violence Intervention Order (FVIO) alone does not create a criminal record.
What if the FVSN or FVIO conditions are disobeyed?
The respondent is the person who must obey the notice or order.
If the respondent fully obeys the order, and has not committed any crimes, they will not have a criminal record.
The respondent must not commit any form of family violence. This includes:
- no physical or sexual violence
- no threats to hurt anyone
- no verbal or written abuse
- no sending abusive or threatening images
- no stalking
- no financial abuse
- no property damage
If there is an exclusion condition, it may direct the respondent to:
- not to go near the protected people, or where they live or work or go to school or child care
- not to get other people to hurt, threaten, harass, stalk or abuse the protected people in any way
There may also be conditions limiting communication by telephone, text message, email or social media.
If the respondent disobeys any of the conditions on the order, and the police find out, the police may:
- arrest the respondent
- lay criminal charges
This could mean a criminal record and penalties result, for example fines or jail.
Disobeying any condition is called a breach or a contravention of the order or notice.
Only a court can change the order.
The protected person cannot give the respondent permission to disobey a notice or order.
Victoria Police, not the protected person, decide if charges are to occur.
If you don't understand the order, or any part of it, ask the police or a legal service.
Why must you attend court?
Your Family Violence Safety Notice (FVSN) or Family Violence Intervention Order (FVIO) will have the date of court.
You should be there. It is wise to plan to be at court all day.
Before court, it is a good idea to call support services to fully discuss your situation and needs.
When you arrive, tell the court worker at the counter you are there and if you want the help of a lawyer and other services.
Ask if the court has a Family Violence Court Liaison Officer, who is a police officer who coordinates with all parties, when Victoria Police has applied for the Family Violence Intervention Order.
On the court day, it is the respondent's responsibility to stay away from the protected people.
There are often areas for respondents and protected people to sit.
At court there are free legal services and support services who can explain your rights, options and the court process
The Magistrate will:
- listen to both legal representatives and may ask you directly what has been happening
- decide if a Family Violence Intervention Order is needed to provide protection and prohibit further violent behaviour
- consider what conditions are needed and how long the order will last
The Magistrate's decision will replace the Family Violence Safety Notice (FVSN) or change any existing Family Violence Intervention Order (FVIO).
After your hearing, wait in the court, for a copy of any new order.
If a Family Violence Intervention Order is issued in Victoria, it will apply and will be enforced anywhere in Australia.
Similarly, if a Domestic Violence Order (DVO) is issued in another state or territory after the 25 November 2017, it will apply and be enforced in Victoria.
Interstate orders issued prior to the 25 November 2017 are enforceable in Victoria if they have been declared as a recognised order.
Do you have more questions?
If you have any questions about your order, ask:
- your local police station
- a legal service or
- the services on the links on this page
Police will refer you to support services. Services may text or call you, or you can call services yourself.
The Magistrates Court can assist you:
- to apply for an family violence intervention order
- to apply for a variation to an existing family violence intervention order
- with advise if you need protection in another state (eg. if you live near the border)
In an emergency call Triple Zero (000)
For more information see
- see their family violence pages and films
- Help Line (7 days, 8am-11pm)
- (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) free telephone advice in a range of languages
- Family Violence Response Centre (24 hours) for women and children or
- (Mon-Fri, 8am-9pm) support and referral for men
- (24 hours)
- DHHS (24 hours)
- ) state-wide referral for emergency housing
VPHREC Secretary - Dr David Ballek - Tel: 03 9247 3385
Reviewed 13 March 2019