An Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) is an order made by a court against somebody in circumstances where a person in need of protection can show that he or she has reasonable grounds to fear that somebody may engage in personal violence or intimidating or stalking behaviour against that person.

The ‘defendant’ is the person against whom the AVO is made, and the ‘protected person’ is the person who requires protection.

An application for an AVO may be made privately, through the applicant’s lawyer or by a police officer. A police officer who believes that a person is in imminent danger of domestic violence, and it is necessary to ensure the safety and protection of that person and his or her children, may bypass the usual application process and request a provisional order.

The court may make interim and provisional orders in urgent situations. An interim order can be made in the absence of the defendant and generally must be made when the defendant has been charged with a serious offence such as an assault or domestic violence.

What are the different types of AVOs?

There are two types of AVOs in New South Wales – an Apprehended Personal Violence Order (APVO) which is ordered when the parties are not related, and an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO) for when the parties are related, in or previously in a relationship, or living together.

What orders can the Court impose?

The Court may impose whatever restrictions and prohibitions on the defendant’s behaviour considered necessary for the protection of the protected person and his or her children, if relevant.

The AVO will restrain the defendant from assaulting, harassing, threatening, stalking, or intimidating the protected person. The order can also prevent the defendant from approaching or contacting the protected person, accessing the premises of the protected person, or attending his or her place of work.

What happens if an application for an AVO is served on me?

Typically, an application is made through the Local Court, and you will be served with the application which will have a Court hearing date.

If you are served with an application for an AVO we recommend you obtain urgent legal advice.

You can either consent to the AVO being made or oppose it. Consenting to an AVO is not an admission of what you have been accused of however you should think carefully about the implications of having an AVO made against you before doing so.

If you intend to oppose the AVO, you should obtain legal advice and ensure you are available to attend the hearing. If you do not appear at the hearing, then the order will likely be made in your absence.

At the hearing, the protected person must generally show, on the balance of probabilities, that he or she has reasonable grounds to fear (and actually does fear) that personal violence may be commissioned against him or her, or that the defendant may engage in intimidating or stalking behaviour.

The AVO will be assessed on the evidence presented by the parties, usually in the form of written statements. The Court may also allow verbal evidence.

What happens if an AVO is made against me?

If an AVO is made against you, it is imperative that you understand the breadth of the orders contained.

The issue of an AVO against you is not in itself a criminal offence, however it can have significant consequences, particularly if you are involved in family law parenting proceedings. It may also impact upon certain job opportunities.

When the AVO is made, the defendant must give any firearms in his or her possession or control to the police. Details of the AVO are retained in a database.

If you breach an AVO you risk a criminal conviction and record, significant fines, and even imprisonment. This can have a serious impact on your life.

Conclusion

AVOs may be issued during family law proceedings, because of ongoing run-ins between neighbours, or other people in regular contact, or incidental to an assault. Often, there are a range of factors leading to the AVO which are usually intermingled in a complex history between the parties.

AVOs issued in family law proceedings require special consideration – they should not be used vexatiously or to prevent a person from having contact with their child or children, (without reasonable grounds). Such applications result in excess costs and complexity and will be frowned upon by the Court.

This information is for general purposes only and you should obtain professional advice relevant to your circumstances before taking any course of action. We have experience in dealing with all types of AVO matters and can assist you in applying for, opposing, or negotiating an AVO.

If you or someone you know wants more information or needs help or advice, please contact us on (02) 9818 2888 or email info@dsplawyers.com.au.