Family violence restraining orders (FVROs)

If you are experiencing family violence, you may want to look at what orders the court can make to increase your safety. 

Family violence means:

  • violence, or a threat of violence, by someone towards a family member, or
  • any other behaviour that coerces or controls another family member or causes them to be fearful.

It is not just physical violence. Family violence includes physical, financial, emotional, psychological and sexual abuse.

You can apply to the court for a family violence restraining order (“FVRO”) against a family member if you need protection because of the risk of family violence. The court can also make an FVRO to protect children from being exposed to family violence.

An FVRO makes it unlawful for a family member to do certain things. It tries to stop them from committing family violence or exposing a child to family violence.

You can find information about Legal Aid WA and other services who specialise in family violence on our webpage, Get help with family violence and your safety.

Approved legal service providers  may be able to help you apply online.

A video to help FVRO Applicants is available to view on the Magistrates Court website.

This webpage has information on when an FVRO can be made, the sort of restrictions it can include, what happens if you have an interstate order, and how FVROs can be made if the other party has criminal charges relating to you.

Who is included as a family member?

The definition of family member is broad and covers current and former:

  • spouses, siblings, children, parents, grandparents and step-family relationships, as well as other relatives, and
  • members of intimate or family-type relationships.

It also covers the former spouse or former de facto partner of the other person's current spouse or current de facto partner.

When can the court make an FVRO?

The court can make an FVRO against another family member (called the respondent) to protect you from family violence if:

  • the respondent has committed family violence against you and is likely to commit family violence against you in the future, or
  • you (or a person who applies for the FVRO for you) have good reasons to fear that the respondent will commit family violence against you.

If the court is satisfied of either of those two things it must make an FVRO unless there are special circumstances that make the FVRO inappropriate.  

The court can also extend an FVRO for the benefit of children, to help protect them from being exposed to family violence by the respondent. A child is exposed to family violence if they see, hear or experience the effects of family violence.

You should try to get legal advice before you apply for an FVRO. 

What restrictions can be included in an FVRO?

An FVRO can have conditions to stop the respondent from doing certain things that they normally would be allowed to do, such as:

  • coming to or near where you live or work
  • being at or near a certain place
  • coming within a certain distance of you
  • contacting or trying to communicate with you in any way.

If the respondent breaks any of those restrictions, they are committing a criminal offence.

The court can include a condition that the respondent has one opportunity to collect their personal items from somewhere they used to live or work (usually with a police officer).

The restrictions in the FVRO can be shaped to suit your situation.

What if you already have a current domestic violence order from another state or territory?

Restraining orders relating to family violence (sometimes called domestic violence) can be nationally recognised and enforced by police and the courts anywhere in Australia. An existing (current) family violence order will automatically apply across Australia if it:

  • was made on or after 25 November 2017 (in any Australian state or territory, including WA)
  • was made or varied in a Victorian court (on any date), or
  • was made in New Zealand and registered in Victoria (on any date).

If your existing order is not automatically enforceable in WA, you can apply for national recognition. This may be simpler, quicker and safer than applying for a new FVRO.

You should get legal advice or contact the local court where your order was originally made to see if you need to apply for national recognition.

What if the other person already has criminal charges relating to you?

In this situation, the other person will probably already have protective bail conditions requiring them not to have any contact with you (similar to an FVRO), so there may be no need to make a separate FVRO application. Breaching protective bail conditions is a criminal offence.

If the other person is convicted of (or pleads guilty to) any charge that involves family violence against you, and you have told the police or court you want an FVRO before the other person has been dealt with by the court, a final FVRO may be made by the court without you having to have make a separate FVRO application. An FVRO must be made on conviction of certain criminal offences even if you do not ask for it.

Useful documents

 

Reviewed: 17 January 2024

Applying for an FVRO?

If you decide applying for an FVRO is the best way to help keep safe from family violence, our Interim FVRO guide can take you through the application process.

Disclaimer

The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.