What is a violence restraining order?
A violence restraining order (VRO) is designed to stop threats, property damage, violence and emotional abuse in the future. It is an order of the court. It tells the offender to stay away from you and/or to stop behaving in certain ways towards you. The order can be worded to suit your situation.
There are two types of VROs:
- VROs against a person you are in a family or domestic relationship with, and
- VROs against a person you are not in a family or domestic relationship with.
There are two other types of restraining orders. See Misconduct restraining orders and Police orders for more information.
What is family and domestic violence?
Family and domestic violence includes emotional, physical, sexual and psychological abuse. If your partner, ex-partner or a family member hurts, threatens or humiliates you, it is family and domestic violence.
The law states that an act of family and domestic violence includes assaults, injuries, threats, stalking, damaging property, hurting animals or pets, and acting in an ongoing intimidating, offensive or emotionally abusive manner.
Physical violence, stalking and threats of violence are crimes.
Am I in a family or domestic relationship?
You are in a family or domestic relationship with someone if that other person is your:
- spouse or ex-spouse
- de facto or ex-de facto
- girlfriend/boyfriend or ex-girlfriend/ex-boyfriend
- child, step-child or grandchild
- parent, step-parent or grandparent
- your sibling or step-sibling
- relative or former relative.
If you are not sure whether you are in a family or domestic relationship with the person you want a restraining order against, seek legal advice.
How can I get a violence restraining order?
If you are applying for the order you are called the applicant or the person seeking to be protected. The person you want the order against is called the respondent. If the order is made they are the person bound.
You can apply for a VRO in person to any Magistrates Court, or if the person to be protected is a child or young person or the person you want one against is under 18 years of age, to the Children's Court of WA. The court may extend an order to cover a person named in the order in addition to the person protected by the order, eg a parent who seeks to have their child covered by their order. If the magistrate making the restraining order does not agree to extend the order in this way an application for the child would have to be made in the Children's Court. Ask at your nearest courthouse or, if there is no courthouse in your area, ask at the nearest police station.
To get a VRO you must be able to show the court that the respondent is likely to:
- commit an act of abuse against you, or
- make you reasonably fear they will commit an act of abuse against you
AND the court thinks it is appropriate to make a restraining order.
See, Violence restraining orders - court process for more information.
What is an act of abuse?
An act of abuse includes:
- any assault whether or not it causes an injury
- any act that causes an injury
- holding another person against their will
- threats to do any of the above.
If the respondent believes they are in a family or domestic relationship with you, even if they aren't, then the following would also be acts of personal violence:
- damage to your property
- injuring or killing your animals
- behaving in an ongoing way that is frightening, offensive or emotionally abusive towards you.
If you are in a family or domestic relationship all of the above acts are acts of abuse.
Who can apply for a violence restraining order?
You can apply for a VRO if you are the person who wants protection. A guardian or a police officer may also apply for you.
If you are not yet 18, the police or a parent, guardian or child welfare officer (eg, a Department for Child Protection and Family Support case worker) can also apply for a violence restraining order for you.
What conditions can be imposed in a VRO?
A VRO can have conditions which stop the person bound from doing certain things such as:
- being on or near the protected person's home or place of work
- being on or near a certain place
- coming within a certain distance of the person protected
- contacting or trying to contact the person protected in any way, including texting, ringing , emailing or writing- even through other people
- contacting you in certain circumstances or in particular way, eg only by texting to make arrangements for contact with your children
- stopping the person protected from using personal property you need
- behaving in certain ways
- being in possession of firearms, ammunition or a firearms licence.
A VRO may also inform the person bound/respondent that certain behaviour and activities are unlawful, that is, they may break a criminal law.
What if a VRO has been made against me?
No matter how angry or upset you are, your actions now are important. You need to think carefully about what has happened, and what you want to happen in the future. There are a number of services available to help you. They can provide legal advice and counselling support.
Is a VRO a criminal charge?
Notice of a VRO does not go on the person bound's criminal record.
However, if a person bound by a VRO breaches that order, they may be charged with the criminal offence of breaching a violence restraining order. A conviction for breach of a VRO will go on their criminal record.
Breaches of a VRO can result in fines of up to $6,000 or imprisonment for up to two years or both.
What is a breach of a VRO?
A restraining order will prevent the person bound from doing certain things.
Persons bound and protected persons must READ THE ORDER CAREFULLY.
If the person bound does something that the restraining order says they can't do, they are "breaching" the order.
For example, if a VRO says the person bound is not allowed to communicate with the protected person, the parties must not:
- visit each other
- call each other on the phone
- send SMS or text messages to each other
- send emails to each other
- send letters to each other
- send presents to each other
- send messages to each other, even through friends, family or their children.
What if I have been charged with breaching a VRO?
If you are charged with breaching a VRO, you may have a legal defence to the charge. For example, if you have contacted the protected person through:
- a lawyer
- an Aboriginal Legal Service court officer
- a mediation service such as Relationships Australia or Centrecare
then there may be a legal defence to the charge. You should get legal advice.
What if the person protected contacts me?
If the person protected contacts you, end the contact straight away (eg, put the telephone down, walk away, etc). If they persist in trying to make contact with you, you may be able to have the order varied. For more information on how to have an order varied see Restraining orders - varying, cancelling, extending and appealing orders in court.
The protected person does not commit the criminal offence of breaching a VRO if they help you breach the order. However, if the protected person helps in a breach of the restraining order, the criminal court dealing with the breach has the power to cancel or vary their restraining order.
How does a VRO affect children spending time with either parent?
A VRO can be made for a child as the person protected or one for an adult as the person protected can be extended by the court to protect children. Read the restraining order carefully as the court may include conditions about what contact the person bound by the order can have with their children.
For the person bound, DO NOT CONTACT the person protected by the restraining order to try and resolve this problem. Get legal advice.
What if there are family court orders in place regarding my children?
If the court making the restraining order does not have the power to adjust a family court order the court cannot make an order that conflicts with the family court order. The court that grants the violence restraining order (domestic and family violence) can in some circumstances change or cancel any parenting orders made by a family court. You should obtain legal advice about your particular situation.
If you are the person bound and there is a VRO protecting your child, it is important to understand what you are legally allowed to do otherwise you could breach the VRO.
If you are worried about parenting arrangements for your child, you need to:
- See a lawyer (contact Legal Aid WA's InfoLine on 1300 650 579 to see if Legal Aid WA can assist).
- Go to court at the next court date for the VRO and say that you want arrangements in place for your child to spend time with you.
- Get information about how you can get a family court order (if you don't already have one). Contact Legal Aid WA's InfoLine on 1300 650 579.
For more information see Children and parenting and Family violence and family law.
How does a VRO affect access to property?
A VRO will usually mean the person bound CANNOT go to where person protected lives to get their property. If they do they may breach the VRO.
The court may make an order that removes the person bound from where they normally live. This can happen even if the person bound is the owner of that property. If this happens the court must make an order about how the person bound can get their personal property. Usually the order will state that the person bound can go back to the house on one occasion only, and in the presence of a police officer, to collect personal items. If the order is not made, the person bound should get legal advice.
If it is a condition of the order, the person bound may recover property in accordance with the procedures set out in the Restraining Order Regulations 1997 (WA) and in the presence of a police officer at a time and date convenient to the person protected. The person bound can ring 131 444 (Police Assistance Centre). The police will try to contact the protected person and arrange a convenient time to them to collect their property in the presence of a police officer.
Property that may be recovered includes any, or all, of the following
(a) property that is used by you to earn income
(b) personal property of your child
(c) property that is wholly, or partly, your property and that is used for, or by, your child
(d) property that the other party to the restraining order has agreed that you may recover.
What if the person protected wants property back?
If the applicant or person protected has moved out of the place where they normally live, and a VRO is now in place, they are not allowed to visit the person bound . If the applicant still has personal property in the family house, they may ask the court to include a condition on the VRO saying they can go back to that house to get their personal property in the presence of a WA police officer.
If an interim VRO has already been made and the court has not made an order allowing the person protected to collect their property, the person protected can apply to the court for a variation of the VRO to include such an order.
A VRO is not a court order about who owns the property. You may need to get advice from a family lawyer about how to get a family court order about property settlement.
For more information see Dividing property - married couples and Dividing property - de facto couples.
How can I get the person bound's property back to them?
You should not initiate contact if it is prohibited under the VRO. The return of property may be covered by a condition of the VRO. You can contact the police and arrange for the goods to be given back to the person bound.
If you were in a relationship don't throw away the property as it may form part of your property settlement. If this applies to you get legal advice.
For more information about property settlement go to Dividing property - de facto couples and Dividing property- married couples.
For other situations see Abandoned goods.
What help can the police give me if there is family and domestic violence?
For information about how the police may be able to help see Police orders - information.
If family violence has led to the offender being charged with a criminal offence and appearing in court, they may plead guilty and have their matters finalised on the day. If you or your children still require protection after that day, you may apply for a VRO in the Magistrates Court or the Children's Court as discussed above.
If the offender pleads not guilty or has to come back to court again, the police can ask for protective bail conditions to remain in place until the court matters are finalised.
You may apply for a VRO to be issued at any time you experience family violence, regardless of whether the offender has been charged. This may provide extra protection for you and your children if the police cannot assist you.
You can also contact the Domestic Violence Sergeant for your district of the family protection officer at your nearest police station for further assistance.
What if I have been injured?
If you have been injured, get medical help immediately. If necessary, the Crisis Care Unit may be able to help with transport. Tell a doctor what happened and remember to take a note of the date and the doctor's name and address.
If possible, get someone to take photographs of your injuries and get them to sign and date them. Anyone can take photographs of the injuries, provided that the person is prepared to go to court with you. Keep any evidence of assault such as torn clothing.
If the police are involved, ask them to collect evidence and arrange for photographs to be taken. Ask the police for an Incident Report Number.
Am I eligible for criminal injuries compensation?
For information about criminal injuries compensation, see Compensation for victims of crime.
Am I eligible for assistance if I am on a visa?
If you are on a temporary visa, you may need legal advice about family and domestic violence and immigration issues. See Immigration status and family violence.
Where can I get more information?
- Contact the general support 24-hours Crisis Care Unit (Department for Child Protection and Family Support) on (08) 9223 1111 or 1800 199 008 for callers outside the metropolitan area.
- For legal advice and assistance for women contact the Domestic Violence Legal Unit of Legal Aid WA on (08) 9262 6254 between 8.30am and 4.30pm Monday to Friday.
- For legal information and assistance for men, contact Legal Aid WA's InfoLine on 1300 650 579 or the 24 hour Men's Domestic Violence Helpline on (08) 9221 1199 or freecall 1800 000 599.
- Police support is available from your local police station on 131 444.
- For more information about what to do if you are at risk of family violence and tips for staying safe, see Family and domestic violence support services.
- Information sheets covering different aspects of dealing with restraining orders are available from Legal Aid WA. These should be used with legal advice. For information on:
- Contact the Legal Aid WA InfoLine on 1300 650 579 or any office for more information.
Last reviewed: 22/03/2013