What is a violence restraining order?
A violence restraining order (VRO) is designed to stop threats, property damage, violence, intimidating behaviour 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.
For more information if you have been served with an interim VRO or a summons for a restraining order see Responding to a restraining order application.
Is there anyone who cannot be bound by a VRO?
A child under the age of ten years old cannot be bound by a VRO.
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.
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 manager) can also apply for a VRO for you.
How can I get a VRO?
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.
An application for a VRO can be made:
- In person to the Children's Court if the respondent is a child or young person under 18.
- In person to the Magistrates Court if both the applicant and the respondent are adults.
- In person to the Magistrates Court or the Children's Court if the person seeking to be protected is a child or young person under 18 against an adult respondent.
- In some cases during proceedings taking place in other courts, eg in the criminal courts.
- Through a police officer who may apply for you by telephone. They usually only do this where doing it yourself is either not practical or the situation is urgent.
The court may also 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 a person is convicted of certain violent offences in a criminal court, that court can automatically make a lifelong violence restraining order against an adult or a child unless the victim does not want it.
Ask at your nearest courthouse for the application form or, if there is no courthouse in your area, ask at the nearest police station. The application form can also be downloaded from the Magistrates Court of WA website.
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.
If possible get legal advice before you make your application. You can contact Legal Aid WA’s InfoLine on 1300 650 579 for information and referral.
See Violence restraining orders - court process for more information on what happens at court.
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.
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 your home home or place of work
- being on or near a certain place
- coming within a certain distance of you
- contacting or trying to contact you 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
- 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.
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 you, they must not:
- visit you
- call you on the phone
- send SMS or text messages to you
- send emails to you
- send letters to you
- send presents to you
- send messages to you, even through friends, family or your children.
What if I want my property back from the person bound?
You should not initiate contact if it is prohibited under the VRO. If you, as the person protected, have moved out of the family house but still have personal property there, you may ask the court to include a condition on the VRO saying you can go back to that house to get your 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 you to collect your property, you 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 about property settlement 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 situations where you are required to take steps before you can dispose of goods left with you 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.
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 as a result of family violence?
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.
- Police support is available from your local police station on 131 444.
- Contact the Legal Aid WA InfoLine on 1300 650 579 or any office for more information and referral.
- 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:
The Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention Legal Service (AFVPLS) at Perth can provide assistance in family law (children's issues), protection and care, VROs and criminal injuries (where related to family violence or sexual assault) to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples, or whose partner or children are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island peoples who are experiencing family violence (not perpetrators). It can be contacted on (08) 9200 2202 for legal help and (08) 9489 6391 for counselling support. See Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention Legal Service for the contact details of other offices including Aboriginal Family Law Services in regional areas.
Last reviewed: 29/01/2014