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Family violence and the law

Family violence and the law

Kelly Leydon, Principal Lawyer, Accredited Specialist in Family Law


Sometimes for a survivor of family violence, speaking to a lawyer may be the first time they have told anyone about their experience. Likewise, it may be the first time a perpetrator is confronted with the potential consequences of their behaviour.

At Gordon Legal we have a team of experienced lawyers dealing with family violence both for survivors and perpetrators. We understand family violence can have a profound impact on peoples’ lives, including their children and families.

Immediate protection

If you need immediate protection from family violence, Victoria Police has the power to issue a Family Violence Safety Notice (FVSN) outside of court hours. It protects survivors of family violence and can exclude the alleged perpetrator from the family home and stop them from communicating with their partner or children. Police will apply for a FVSN if they assess the situation and believe on reasonable grounds that there is an immediate risk to the safety of the affected family member or their children.

Once the alleged perpetrator is served with the FVSN, it is in force and has the same effect as a Family Violence Intervention Order (FVIO) until the matter is brought before a magistrate.

A FVSN is not a criminal charge, but it is an enforceable order and must be complied with once served. It remains in force until the matter goes before a magistrate, which must happen within five days of service of the notice. If you contravene a FVSN, you can be charged with a criminal offence and face a sentence of up to two years in jail or a fine of up to $35,000.

Non-urgent applications

If urgent assistance is not needed, you can apply for your own Family Violence Intervention Order (FVIO) at the Magistrate’s Court without involving the police. More information can be found on the Magistrates Court of Victoria website.

We recommend obtaining legal advice before applying for an order to ensure all relevant information is presented to the Registrar to properly consider the application.

Consequences of an Order

A FVSN or FVIO may include the affected family member and their children. It can prevent the alleged perpetrator from:

  • contacting their former partner and children, unless there is a further written agreement between the parties that specifically allows contact with the children;
  • continuing to live in the home with their former partner and children;
  • removing property from their home unless with the agreement of their former partner and with the co-operation of police to obtain access to the home.

A FVIO is also a relevant matter considered by a judge when making orders regarding the parenting arrangements for children. The Family Law Act 1975 (the Act) specifically requires a judge to consider that parenting orders are not inconsistent with a FVIO and does not expose a person to an unacceptable risk of family violence. The Act also allows the court to make other orders to safeguard a person in addition to a FVIO.

A FVSN or FVIO can have serious implications and outcomes for both survivors and perpetrators.

If you are applying for, or served with, an Intervention Order Application or a Family Violence Safety Notice, it is essential you seek legal advice. A lawyer can assist you to apply for your own Intervention Order, if the police are not already involved. Alternatively, your lawyer might be able to assist you to fight the order or negotiate the conditions and/or duration of the order.

Legal representation at court for either the applicant or the respondent can result in a fairer outcome. Without seeking a lawyer’s advice, you might not fully understand the options available to you or the potential long-term ramifications of a final Intervention Order.

Family Violence leave

A reminder that the National Employment Standards now provides for 10 days paid family violence leave. In Victoria, the Andrews Government has included, in both public sector enterprise agreements (please check your agreement if outside public sector), provisions for family violence leave (up to 20 days paid for full-time employees).

Employees can utilise this leave to attend legal proceedings or appointments with a legal practitioner if this relates to, and is as a consequence of, family violence.