What is a FVRO?
A family violence restraining order (FVRO) is a court order which is put in place to protect a victim from threats of violence, actual violence and behaviour which coerces, controls or causes the victim to be fearful.
Victims can apply for an FVRO against someone that they are or have been in a family relationship with, which includes current and former spouses, partners, siblings, children, parents, grandparents, step-family relationships and other relatives or members of intimate, family-type relationships.
The Court can make an FVRO to protect a victim against another family member if the family member has committed family violence against the victim and is likely to commit family violence against the victim again, alternatively if the family member has behaved in a way which leads the victim to believe that family violence will be committed in the future.
What is family violence?
It is essential to understand that family violence is not just physical violence.
Family violence can also include financial abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, property damage, threats or isolation of the victim.
What has changed?
We discussed the distressing impact which the restrictions in place as a result of COVID-19 can have on victims of domestic violence, here. This is further demonstrated by the fact that the National sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service 1800 RESPECT has reported that between March and April this year, the use of its’ online support tool increased by 38%.
Previously, applications for an FVRO had to be made by attending the Court registry in person to lodge an application, which understandably in many cases acted as a deterrent for victims considering if they could or should seek the protection of an FVRO.
On 12 May 2020, the WA Attorney General together with the Minister for Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence, announced that victims of family violence are now able to apply for restraining orders online.
This change stems from new laws the State Government has implemented in response to the alarming increase of family violence issues, many of which are as a result of the restrictions imposed as a result of COVID-19. Other changes which have recently been implemented include the creation of a separate offence for breaching an FVRO and an increase of the penalty for breaching an FVRO from $6,000 to $10,000 with a maximum of 2 years’ imprisonment.
Currently only employees of the following approved organisations can lodge a restraining order application online:
- Legal Aid WA Centres – 9 locations in WA, contact information of which can be found here;
- Community Legal Centre and Aboriginal Family Law Services listed here; and
- Privately approved lawyers.
Victims who wish to make an application can contact any of the above organisations to obtain assistance to lodge their application online.
The online application process allows applicants to select a preferred hearing date and time, and there is no cost to lodge the application.
The introduction of online applications for restraining orders is one positive consequence of the restrictions imposed as a result of COVID-19. The Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence Minister Simone McGurk confirmed that “while this initiative has been brought forward to help victims through the current crisis, it will be a permanent service for applicants”.
While this reform is in its earliest stage and is limited to approved organisations only, the Government has indicated that it intends to expand the online application process to include private firms who elect to be able to assist in this area, in coming months.
If you require any further advice or clarification concerning the implementation of Family Violence Restraining Orders, do not hesitate to contact the specialist team at Carr & Co.