Conduct Agreement Orders
What is a Conduct Agreement Order?
A Conduct Agreement Order (CAO) is the name given to an FVRO that has been made with the consent of the Respondent (the Person Bound), without making any admissions.
A CAO can include all the restraints and conditions that are included in an FVRO. If the Respondent consents to a final order imposing restraints, the usual practice is for the Respondent to agree to a CAO on those terms. If a CAO is made the case will not go to a final order hearing. Also, there will be no finding or admission of family violence.
The court may make the CAO without being satisfied there are grounds for making an FVRO in the same terms.
If the Applicant does not agree with the Respondent about the duration or terms of the final CAO, the case can still proceed to a final order hearing for the court to decide whether to make an FVRO and with what terms and duration. There is no guarantee that the court will make a final FVRO at the hearing
The CAO will be in force immediately if the Respondent is in court when it is made. Otherwise it will come into force when it is served on the Respondent, or later if this is stated on the order.
What is the difference between ‘without admission’ and a ‘finding of family violence’?
'Without admission' means a party is not agreeing with any of the allegations made against them by the other party. This means the party does not agree that family violence occurred.
A 'finding of family violence' means a court has decided that family violence occurred based on evidence presented in court where there has been an opportunity to test that evidence, such as through cross-examination.
If the Respondent agrees to a CAO there is no finding by a court of family violence. The Respondent does not admit to any of the matters alleged in the FVRO application.
Is a CAO an FVRO?
A CAO is the name given to the order made when a Respondent consents to an FVRO on a without admission basis. It is taken to be an FVRO for the purposes of the Restraining Orders Act 1997 (WA).
A CAO is not an undertaking because a CAO is a court order that is enforceable by the police and the courts.
Is a CAO a criminal charge?
A CAO is not a criminal charge. Notice of the order does not go on the Respondent’s criminal record.
Is a breach of a CAO a criminal offence?
Yes, it is an offence to breach a CAO. If a person breaches the CAO they may be arrested and charged with the offence of breaching an FVRO if there is enough evidence. On conviction the maximum penalty for breaching the CAO is a fine of $10,000 or imprisonment for 2 years. A conviction for a breach will go on their criminal record.
Why are CAOs used?
There are many reasons why CAOs are used to resolve FVRO applications. These include where the Respondent wants to avoid:
- admitting they committed family violence as alleged in the FVRO application
- a finding of family violence being made against them
- giving evidence in a final order hearing
- children or other potential witnesses being required to give evidence, whether for or against them
- the related financial and emotional costs of more proceedings or a hearing, or
- the risk of paying the Applicant’s legal costs, which can be substantial.
How is a CAO made?
Duty lawyers can help to negotiate the restraints on CAOs at some courts. The court will then make the CAO with the consent of the Respondent. The CAO can be drafted and signed by both parties.
Respondents can also tell the magistrate that they consent to the CAO during court proceedings. When they do the magistrate can make the CAO without the requirement for the parties to sign it.
When can a CAO be made?
It can be made at any stage in proceedings under the Restraining Orders Act 1997 (WA) about an FVRO.
If the other party has a lawyer, you can contact them before the court date to discuss the terms, or conditions, of a CAO.
What can a CAO say?
The restraints and conditions included in a CAO are usually very similar to the FVRO they replace. They can contain conditions outlining:
- what the Respondent cannot do
- what the Respondent can do. This may include attending mediation or allowing contact to make arrangements for children or deal with the parties’ personal property.
A CAO can be worded to cover most situations.
You may need legal advice about the restraints on your CAO.
Can a CAO be changed or cancelled?
Yes, either the Person Bound by the CAO or the Person Protected by it can apply to change or cancel the CAO in the same way as an FVRO.
Reviewed: 16 November 2020