Family Violence Restraining Orders (“FVROs”) – Changes to the Law Protecting Persons from Family Violence
On 17 November 2016, the Restraining Orders and Related Legislation Amendment (Family Violence) Bill 2016 passed through State Parliament. This bill represents one of the biggest overhauls of family violence legislation. Given 64% of assaults recorded in Western Australia during 2016 were Family and Domestic Violence related offences (as published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics), it was an update that needed to happen.
Following from this bill, on 1 July 2017, a new type of restraining order came into being – the Family Violence Restraining Order (“FVRO”). This now joins the two previous types of restraining orders, being the commonly known Violence Restraining Order (“VRO”) and Misconduct Restraining Order (“MRO”). A FVRO should be sought in situations where a person requires protection from another person with whom they are in, or were in, a family relationship. This can include married couples, de facto partners (including same-sex de facto partners) and persons related to one another. Essentially, this should be sought if you require protection from a person you are in an intimate or family-type relationship with, and they have engaged in family violence towards you, or threatened to do so.
The Restraining Orders Act 1997 (as amended) (“the Act”) defines family violence as:
- violence, or a threat of violence, by a person towards a family member of the person; or
- any other behaviour by the person that coerces or controls the family member or causes the member to be fearful.
The Act further goes on to expand on examples of Family Violence, which now includes factors that ensure the legislation is kept up to date with new and ongoing forms of family violence that a perpetrator commits in the 21st century. For example, “revenge porn” tactics can now be a basis for obtaining a FVRO against another person, with the legislation specifically stating that distributing or publishing, or threatening to distribute or publish, intimate personal images of a person would represent an act of family violence.
Further examples of behaviour that would meet the definition of family violence include:
- an assault (which includes both physical assaults and threats to commit physical assaults;
- a sexual assault or other sexually abusive behaviour against the family member;
- stalking or cyber-stalking the family member – which can include the use of electronic means to monitor movements and communication with others;
- unreasonably controlling access to money or denying necessary financial support in circumstances where the person is financially dependent on that person;
- exposing a child to violence;
and various other examples.
A Court can make a FVRO is that are satisfied that:
- the respondent has committed family violence against a person seeking to be protected and the respondent is likely again to commit family violence against that person in the future; or
- a person seeking to be protected, or a person who has applied for the order on behalf of that person, has reasonable grounds to apprehend that the respondent will commit family violence against the person seeking to be protected.
Therefore, if you are concerned for your safety, or have any concerns that a current partner or ex partner, or any other related person, may engage in behaviour as outlined above, you should consider apply for an FVRO. This can be done:
- at a Magistrates Court if both parties are adults;
- At a Magistrates Court or the Children's Court of WA if the person seeking to be protected is a person under 18, against an adult respondent.
- At the Children's Court if the respondent is a person under 18; or
- Through a police officer who may apply for you by telephone, although this often occurs only when the situation is urgent.
The new laws are a huge step forward in that it allows the Courts to intervene at a point before the controlling and intimidating behaviour escalates to violence, and provides an avenue for people who may feel trapped in these types of violent relationships.
These are serious matters and, at Perth Family Lawyers, we can provide expert tailored advice and assistance in relation to all aspects of Family Violence Restraining Orders, including obtaining an Order and opposing an Order if you find yourself in that situation. Please do not hesitate to contact us today on (08) 9325 8675 or email us via our Contact Page and arrange an interview with Samantha Long, or any one of our other professional staff.