PROTECTION ORDERS

A protection order will contain a number of conditions that the violent party (the respondent) must comply with or follow. Some of these are standard conditions that are in all or most protection orders. However, the order can also include special conditions to deal with particular issues, like contact with children.

Standard conditions of protection orders

Non-violence and non-contact conditions

Every protection order includes non-violence conditions. The order will also include conditions restricting the respondent from having any contact with the people protected by the order, unless the applicant for the order agrees to living together with the respondent.

The respondent will also not be allowed to have firearms or other weapons, and will have to attend a non-violence programme.

The standard conditions are all explained in more detail below.

Non-violence conditions

If you’re protected by a protection order, the respondent must not abuse or threaten to abuse you or a child of your family, whether physically, psychologically or sexually, and they must not damage or threaten to damage your property. They also must not encourage anyone else to abuse or threaten you.

Non-contact conditions

The respondent must not make any form of contact with you (for example, by visiting, telephoning, writing or texting), unless:

·       it’s an emergency, or

·       the contact is allowed under a parenting order or written parenting agreement, or under a special condition of the protection order, or

·       the contact is necessary for the respondent to go to a family group conference or to a settlement conference in a Care of Children Act case.

The respondent must not:

·       watch or hang around your home, workplace, or place of study or any other place you visit often, or stop or hinder you going to or leaving those places

·       follow you around, or stop or confront you in any place

·       enter or remain on any land or building where you are, unless you’ve explicitly agreed to this.

Non-violence programmes for respondents

Attendance at non-violence programme is a standard condition

All respondents will be ordered to attend a non-violence programme provided by an approved organisation, unless the judge thinks there’s a good reason not to require this (for example, if an appropriate programme isn’t available).

Non-violence programmes aim to teach respondents about the effects of domestic violence, about how the Domestic Violence Act works, and about how respondents can deal with future conflicts in better ways so that they can live without violence.

What happens if the respondent doesn’t go to the programme?

Failing to attend a programme or initial assessment without a reasonable excuse is a criminal offence. The respondent can be charged in the District Court and, if found guilty, can be fined up to $5,000 or jailed for up to six months.

Programme provider’s duty to tell court about non-attendance or safety concerns

The organisation providing the non-violence programme must notify the Family Court if it thinks it’s no longer appropriate or practical for the respondent to keep going to the programme, or if the respondent isn’t participating adequately.

Programme providers are also required to immediately inform the Family Court if they have concerns about the safety of any of the people protected by the protection order. You will be informed if these concerns arise.

When a respondent can object to attending a programme

If the Family Court has made a protection order without notice, the direction to attend a non-violence programme doesn’t take effect until 10 working days after the respondent is given a copy of the direction. During that time the respondent can tell the court they object to being required to attend the programme.

The requirement to attend the programme is suspended until a judge has considered the objection and either confirmed or cancelled the original direction.

Restrictions on firearms and other weapons

The respondent under a protection order must not possess or have control of any weapons, or hold a firearms licence.

The respondent must hand in any weapons (whether legal or illegal) and any firearms licence to the police as soon as possible and no later than 24 hours after being served with a protection order, or earlier if the police require this. Weapons include firearms, airguns, pistols and explosives.

If the protection order is temporary, any firearms licence held by the respondent is suspended. If the order becomes final, the firearms licence is cancelled.

Special conditions

Special conditions for contact and other issues

When you get a protection order the Family Court can impose special conditions that are “reasonably necessary” to protect you or your children from further family violence.

Often these will relate to arrangements for contact with your children. For example, the protection order might say it won’t be a breach of the order if the respondent contacts you about issues specifically to do with your child, or if the respondent has contact with the child at a certain time and place.

“Safety programmes” for protected people

Free, confidential programmes are available to any protected person

If you’ve obtained a protection order, education and support programmes – called “safety programmes” – are available for you, your children and any other person who’s specifically named in the order as a protected person.

Your lawyer – or the judge or court registrar if you don’t have a lawyer – must tell you about your right to attend a safety programme. You can  find out about programmes through the Family Court Coordinator or a domestic violence service.

What’s the purpose of the safety programmes?

These safety programmes aim to help protected people understand domestic violence and the laws relating to it, to understand the effects of domestic violence on families, and to learn how to protect themselves from domestic violence in the future.

Property orders: Other orders that can be made

When you obtain a protection order from the Family Court, the judge can also make various property orders to deal with who has access to what was the family home and the furniture.

Although these orders are usually applied for alongside a protection order, you can apply for one of them even if you decide not to apply for a protection order.

Occupation orders (for people who own their own home)

An occupation order gives you the exclusive right to live in a property that either you or the respondent owns. The effect of the order is that the respondent has to move out, even if they’re the sole owner. You can get an occupation order even if you’ve moved out of the property.

The judge needs to be satisfied that the order is necessary to protect you (the applicant), or that the order is in the best interests of a child of your family.

When deciding whether to make the order the judge must consider the reasonable accommodation needs of everyone who might be affected by the order.

Tenancy orders (for people who are renting)

You can obtain a tenancy order from the Family Court for any place that you and the respondent were renting together, even if the respondent was named as the sole tenant on the tenancy agreement. The tenancy order makes you the sole tenant of the property, and it means that the respondent no longer has a right to live there.

A tenancy order can’t be granted if other people are also tenants of the property.

Like the occupation order, the judge can only make a tenancy order if satisfied that the order is necessary to protect you (the applicant), or that the order is in the best interests of a child of your family and the judge must consider the reasonable accommodation needs of everyone who might be affected by the order.

Furniture orders

A furniture order allows you to have possession of some or all of the furniture, household appliances, and household effects from a house you’ve shared with the respondent.

You can apply for a furniture order for on its own, or along with an occupation or tenancy order (in which case it’s called an “ancillary furniture order”).

Can I apply for a property order “without notice”?

Yes. The Family Court can make occupation or tenancy orders “without notice” (that is, without the other person being told about your application) if:

·       you or a child of your family has been physically or sexually abused by the respondent, and

·       a delay could expose you or the child to physical or sexual abuse, and

·       a protection order has been granted, or is granted at the same time.

Care of children and protection orders

Parenting orders under the Care of Children Act

If you apply for a protection order you can also apply for a parenting order under the Care of Children Act 2004 at the same time.

The respondent can also apply for a parenting order.

When a Family Court judge makes a parenting order about arrangements for day-to-day care and contact, a key factor is the need to keep the children safe from all forms of violence, including from family members. If there is, or has ever been, a protection order in force against one of the parents, then the judge must specifically take into account:

·       whether the protection order is still in force

·       the circumstances in which the order was made, and

·       any written reasons given by the judge who made the protection order.

If a judge making a parenting order is deciding about contact with a particular parent and isn’t satisfied that the child would be safe with that parent, the judge can order that any contact between the child and that parent must be supervised.

Supervised contact means that contact is overseen by an approved organisation, or by a suitable person approved by the Family Court, such as a relative or family friend. It means that contact will happen in a safe, controlled situation.

The cost of supervised contact may be paid by the government if it is court directed and run by an approved organisation.

Temporary (“interim”) parenting orders

If you’ve applied for a protection order, the Family Court can make a temporary (“interim”) parenting order dealing with day-to-day care or contact arrangements for your child, if this is necessary to protect the child’s welfare and best interests. This can be done even if you haven’t applied for a parenting order.

If the court does make a temporary parenting order, you’ll need to apply for a full parenting order under the Care of Children Act as soon as possible.

Can the respondent have contact with the children?

Because of the non-contact conditions in a protection order, the respondent usually can’t have any contact with children who usually or regularly live with you.

However, the respondent can have contact with the children if:

·       you’ve agreed to the respondent living with you and the children, or

·       contact is allowed under a parenting order or other court order, or under a written parenting agreement between you and the respondent.