What a protection order does
Standard conditions of family violence protection orders
No violence and no contact
If you’re protected by a family violence protection order, the order will include non-violence conditions. The order will also include conditions restricting the other person from having any contact with you or your children (non-contact conditions), unless you agree to living together with the other person.
The other person will also not be allowed to have firearms or other weapons, and will also have to attend a non-violence programme.
These standard conditions are all explained in more detail below.
Non-violence condition: All forms of family violence are banned
If you’re protected by a protection order, the other person (the respondent) must not do anything that amounts to family violence.
The definition of “family violence” is a broad one, and this will include intimidating or harassing you by, for example, watching or hanging around your home or workplace, or following you or coming up to you when you’re out with your friends or otherwise out in public. It will also include threatening you, including through emails, texts or online posts.
The respondent also must not encourage anyone else to do things or contact you in ways that would be against the protection order if the respondent did them.
Non-contact condition: No contact unless you agree to it or another exception applies
The standard rule is that the other person can’t contact you in any way. This includes not just direct, face-to-face contact, but also any indirect contact – for example, sending you letters or phoning, emailing or texting.
But there are exceptions to the standard no-contact rule. The main exception is if you decide to suspend the standard no-contact condition and allow certain types of contact. You can agree that the other person can live with you, or you can agree that they can have more limited contact with you – like visiting you, or writing to you or phoning you. Your consent to the contact will only be valid if you give it to the other person in writing (which can include an email, text or other digital communication).
You can change your mind and reactivate the no-contact condition at any time, so that the other person isn’t allowed to contact you. This doesn’t have to be in writing – it’s enough if you do it, for example, face to face or over the phone.
You can suspend and reactivate the no-contact condition a number of times.
Contact is also allowed if:
- it’s in an emergency, or
- it’s allowed under a parenting order or written parenting agreement, or
- it’s allowed under a special condition of the protection order, or
- it’s necessary for the other person to go to a family group conference or to a settlement conference in a Care of Children Act case.
Note: If you want to live with the other person again, you can. While you’re living together, all the other conditions of the protection order (especially the non-violence conditions) stay in place. But if you change your mind, or if the situation changes, you can put the no-contact conditions back on again simply by telling the other person, including in person or over the phone. In other words, if you ask the other person to leave, they have to leave immediately and they can’t contact you or the children in any way.
Non-violence programmes for people who’ve been violent
Doing a non-violence programme is a standard condition
If you’re protected by a protection order, the other person 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).
The aim of the non-violence programme will be to teach the person about the effects of family violence, about how the family violence laws work, and about how they can deal with future conflicts in better ways so that they can live without violence.
The person will first have to be assessed by the organisation that provides the programme, to work out how much of a risk they pose to anyone protected by the protection order or to the public, and to work out what the most appropriate programme will be.
If the person has particular needs, the Family Court is also likely to refer them to specific programmes or services – for example, a drug/alcohol programme.
What happens if they don’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. A judge can then make whatever orders the judge thinks are necessary. The protected person will also be informed about the programme provider’s concerns.
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 guns and other firearms
The respondent under a protection order must not possess or have control of any guns or other firearms, including air rifles, and they can’t or hold a firearms licence.
They have to hand in any firearms (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.
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.