Getting an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO)
What you need to know about getting an AVO against someone, how to apply, and what exclusion orders are
About Apprehended Violence Orders (AVO)
What is an AVO?
An Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) is an Order made by a court against a person, such as a current or former partner, who makes you fear for your safety. This is to protect you from further violence, intimidation or harassment.
All AVOs made by the court ban the person who is causing these fears from assaulting, harassing, threatening, stalking or intimidating you. The person you fear, known as the defendant, must obey the Order made by the court. If they breach (break) the Order, they may be charged with a criminal offence.
There are 2 types of AVOs:
- Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO) — is made to protect a person where a domestic relationship exists between the parties
- Apprehended Personal Violence Order (APVO) — is made where the people involved are not related and do not have a domestic relationship, for example co-workers and neighbours
About the Apprehended Domestic Violence Order
If you are in a domestic and family violence situation, an ADVO is most relevant to you as it is made where the people involved are related, living together or in an intimate relationship. An ADVO can also be made against a former partner.
In the case of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person, ADVOs can be made where the people involved are part of the kin or extended family of the other person.
ADVOs are also available to people who are, or have been, in a dependent care arrangement with another person, including paid carers, and to people living in the same residential facility.
Who can apply for an AVO?
You can apply for an AVO if,
- you are aged 16 years or older
- you have been the victim of physical or sexual assault, threatened with physical harm, been stalked, harassed or intimidated, and believe that this behaviour will continue
How do I apply for an AVO?
You can contact the NSW Police and a police officer can apply for an AVO on your behalf. A Domestic Violence Liaison Officer (DVLO) can help you through this process. They are police officers who are trained in domestic and family violence, child protection procedures, victim support and the court AVO process.
You can also make an application at your local court for help. By law, the court staff must allow you to make an application for an ADVO. You should make a note of the court date given to you at the time you make the application.
What services can help me with an AVO?
Legal Aid NSW provides a number of services to help with domestic and family violence legal issues:
Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services (WDVCAS) are locally-based, independent services for women and children seeking help and information about how to get protection from domestic violence from the courts. There are 28 WDVCAS at 114 local courts. To find your local WDVCAS call:
The Domestic Violence Practitioner Service (DVPS) funds private lawyers to assist women and children experiencing domestic violence in court proceedings. You can find out more about DVPS locations and services through your local WDVCAS or by calling Law Access NSW:
Do I need a lawyer?
If the police have applied for an AVO on your behalf, you don't need a lawyer as the Police Prosecutor will present the matter in court.
If you have applied for an Apprehended Violence Order on your own through the Local Court, it is a good idea to get a lawyer to represent you. You can represent yourself if you want to. Legal aid is available in Apprehended Violence Order matters through Legal Aid NSW.
There are also lawyers that can help with domestic violence issues in a number of local courts through the Domestic Violence Practitioner Service (DVPS). These practitioners can be contacted through your local Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services.
What happens next?
The police will serve the application on the defendant (the person who is causing fears for your safety). The application states the date and time the defendant has to attend court.
If the defendant has been served with the application but does not come to court and does not have a good reason for not attending, the court can make an Order in their absence.
Sometimes the police are not able to serve the defendant with the application by the time you first go to court. If this happens, your case will be adjourned (postponed) to give the police more time to serve the defendant.
You can ask the court to make an Interim (temporary) Order to protect you during the period of the adjournment. The magistrate may need to hear some evidence from you to make an Interim Order.
What happens at court?
The court can make an AVO if:
- the defendant agrees to an AVO being made
- or after hearing evidence, the magistrate is satisfied that there are fears for your safety and those fears are reasonable
- or the defendant has been served but does not show up at court.
The magistrate can make an AVO if the defendant agrees to the Order being made. The defendant can consent (agree) to the Order being made, without admitting that they have done anything wrong. In this case, your Order will be made that day.
Interim Orders and hearings
If the defendant does not consent to the AVO, your case will be adjourned (postponed) for the magistrate to make a decision about whether there are grounds to make the Order.
It's important that you ask the court for an Interim (temporary) AVO to protect you until the hearing.
If your matter is adjourned for hearing, you may be told by the magistrate to provide written statements to the court by a certain date. Directions about these statements will be given to you by the court. Your matter will then be "listed for mention" to see if both you and the defendant have complied with (followed) the court’s directions.
Failing to comply
If you, the applicant, have failed to comply with these directions, the application for an AVO may be dismissed, or the court may order you to file any outstanding statements.
If the defendant does not comply with the direction, they may not be able to give any evidence at the hearing.
If neither of you comply with this direction the application for an AVO will be dismissed.
Listed for hearing
Once you and the defendant have complied with the court’s direction, the matter will be "listed for hearing".
It is important that you attend court for your matter. If you do not attend, the ADVO application may be dismissed.
If the defendant does not attend, the Order may be made in their absence.
What happens at the hearing?
The hearing will be based on the evidence contained in the statements unless the court allows additional evidence or evidence to be given verbally.
The applicant (you) presents their case first. The defendant or their solicitor will then have the opportunity to ask you and your witnesses questions about your evidence.
The defendant then has the opportunity to present their case.
You or your lawyer (or the Police Prosecutor in a police application) will be able to ask the defendant and their witnesses questions about their evidence. It is up to the applicant to prove to the magistrate that an AVO should be made.
The defendant does not have to prove than an Order should not be made.
What types of conditions can be put in an AVO?
If an AVO is made, 3 conditions will always be included. These conditions prohibit the following behaviour:
- assaulting, molesting, harassing, threatening or interfering with the Protected Person
- intimidating the Protected Person
- stalking the Protected Person (anyone in a domestic relationship with the Protected Person is also protected by these conditions, and this may include your children)
Extra conditions may be included in the AVO prohibiting the defendant from:
- approaching the Protected Person
- approaching or entering places where the Protected Person may live, work or go to
- approaching the Protected Person, or places where the Protected Person may be, after drinking alcohol or taking illegal drugs
- damaging property
- any other conditions as agreed by both parties or decided by the court
Property Recovery Orders
If you left your personal belongings (property) at the defendant's home, you can get them returned through the court Property Recover Order. The order can only be made at the same time that a Provisional, Interim or Final AVO is made.
A Property Recovery Order sets out how the belongings should be returned. An order may be made about goods like clothes, personal papers and children's toys. The court can order the police to accompany the person recovering property for everyone’s safety.
What happens to the defendant once the AVO is made?
When an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) is made, the defendant does not get a criminal conviction or a criminal record. The details of the AVO are kept on a police database and the police will take any firearms in the defendant’s possession or control.
If the defendant has a firearms licence, the licence is automatically revoked (cancelled) for a period of 10 years. If the Order is revoked (cancelled), the defendant can get their firearms licence back only if they are considered to be a fit and proper person to have a firearms licence.
What happens if the AVO is breached?
An Apprehended Violence Order is a court order. If the defendant breaches (breaks) a condition of the Order, they may be charged with a criminal offence.
You should keep a copy of your AVO on you at all times and call the police if the defendant breaches any of the conditions listed on it.
How long does an AVO last?
Your AVO will last for a certain period of time, for example, 2 years. Before that period ends, you can apply for an extension of the Order, as long as you still have a reasonable fear of the defendant.
Can you apply to change the conditions on an AVO?
Yes. If there is a change of circumstances, you can apply to the Local Court or the police to have the Order changed or cancelled. However, only the police can apply to change or cancel an Order if children are named on it.