What Is An Apprehended Violence Order (AVO?)


AVO’s, or Apprehended Violence Orders, are legal orders that aim to protect individuals from violence or harassment. These orders can be issued by the police or the courts and can have serious consequences if violated. AVO’s are a vital tool in preventing domestic violence and ensuring the safety of victims.

An Apprehended Violence Order is known as an AVO. It can be referred to as a restraining order or violence order. It is an order against a specific person put in place if the Court believes that another person’s safety is threatened. The purpose of an AVO is to protect a person known as the PINOP – a person in need of protection. The orders safeguard against such things as intimidation, harassment, violence, and stalking. Apprehended violence orders are put in place as there are people who require protection and people who need a court order to behave appropriately.

An AVO is an Order of the Court, not a conviction or a criminal record.

Types Of AVO’s

There are two types of Apprehended Violence Orders:

a. Apprehended Personal Violence Order (APVO)

An Apprehended Personal Violence Order is sought when the people involved are not related and do not have a domestic relationship. So, this is the Order used if neighbors are involved or if the person is someone with whom you work.

b. Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO)

ADVO refers to an order made where those involved are related, share a domestic relationship, are or have been in an intimate relationship or living together.

What Does It Mean?

The Court can place differing conditions on an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO), having considered the circumstances and the requirements of the person in need of protection. If an order is granted, then three conditions are always included. The following behavior is prohibited:

  1. Assault, threatening or harassing behavior, molestation, or interfering with the protected person.
  2. Intimidation of the person protected by the Order.
  3. Stalking. If other people are involved in the domestic relationship with the person covered by the Order, for example, children, they are also protected by the same conditions.

Additional conditions that may be included on the AVO ban the defendant from:

  1. Approaching the person protected.
  2. Approaching or going into places where the protected person lives, shops, works, or goes to,
  3. Damaging property that belongs to the person
  4. Approaching the person or places where the person is if they have been drinking alcohol or taking illegal drugs.

Further conditions can be added if the Court decides them or if both parties agree.

How To Apply

Applying for an AVO is not a complicated process. To get an AVO on a provisional basis, make a complaint about the person you need protection from to the police or the Court. If the police are in a position where they are concerned about your safety after an incident has occurred, they can apply for a provisional AVO for you.

An application can be made for an Apprehended Personal Violence Order in the same way as it can for an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order. You are encouraged to deeply consider what you are doing before you follow this pathway. The Court can refuse an application that they believe is not genuine and has been applied for to deliberately cause trouble or is frivolous. The Court can also advise you to undertake mediation rather than providing an AVO.

What Should You Do If Someone Takes Out An AVO Against You?

You need to ensure that you understand the potential consequences of an AVO being put in place against you. Do your research and seek advice from a lawyer who has experience with apprehended violence orders. They will be able to give you the information you require about your legal options.

If you feel an unjustifiable complaint has been made against you, you must choose how to proceed. Whether justified or not, you need to decide how you will proceed.

Option 1: You can agree to the Order even if you believe it is not justified. Agreeing to the Order will save you money, and you won’t have to take time off work to go to Court. You need to be aware that there are risks involved in doing this. The consequences of having an AVO against you include having a list of conditions that you must follow, which will prohibit you from being near the person or places that they are. Although you will not get a criminal record, the police will keep a record of your AVO. It can impact some employment prospects and your ability to obtain specific licenses, like a security license.

Option 2: Your other choice is to choose to defend the AVO. There are cases where you can sort things out and settle them without a formal Order being recorded, but this does not often occur. Defending an AVO can be quite tricky for several reasons.

Reason 1: When the Court is seeking proof, they are not looking for proof beyond all reasonable doubt, which they do in criminal cases; rather, they look at the balance of probability.

Reason 2: The police officer makes the application for an AVO on behalf of the person in need of protection. In court, the police will be represented legally by a police prosecutor while you are not.

Reason 3: Most of the things that people allege occurred are proposed to have taken place when there were no witnesses. No witnesses mean that it is going to be your word against the person applying for the AVO.

Often an AVO is made rapidly. If you have had an AVO taken out against you and need to recover personal property from the house you and the defendant were sharing, you will need the Court to make a Property Recovery Order. You can do this at the same time as the first court date. A Property Recovery Order will allow you to get personal property from home. If necessary, the Court can order for the police to go with you to collect property to keep all concerned safe.

As you can see, this is quite a complicated situation. It would be good to seek legal assistance if you believe an AVO taken out against you was unnecessary, obtained through a false complaint, or obtained by the person so they can gain some advantage, such as preventing you from seeing your children. Whatever the situation, if you choose to defend the application, it is advisable to get legal advice.

Length Of AVO

On the Apprehension Violence Order, it will be specified how long it will last. The length is generally between six months and two years. Initially, the sought Order will be an ‘interim’ order, and this will only apply between the first court date and the date of the hearing.

Lawyer Or No Lawyer?

Do you need a lawyer? If the police are applying for the AVO, they will also provide a police prosecutor who will represent you during family law court proceedings. In contrast, if you go to the local Court to apply for the AVO yourself, then you should secure a lawyer to represent you. It is possible to represent yourself though generally not advisable. If you are concerned about the cost of representation, then apply for support from Legal aid.

What To Expect In Court

If you have consulted with a lawyer, they will make you aware of what will happen in Court.

a. If the defendant, having been served with the AVO application, does not attend the proceedings without good reasons, then the Court can decide about the AVO in their absence.

b. There are occasions when the police cannot serve the defendant with the AVO application before the court date. This situation would lead to the court proceedings being postponed providing the police with more time.

c. You or the police can request a temporary AVO to provide you with protection until the court date.

d. If the defendant attends but does not consent to the Apprehended Violence Order, then the case will be adjourned until the date of a hearing. Again, an interim AVO can be applied for and provided until the hearing.

A Hearing

A hearing is when the magistrate listens to the evidence provided by both parties and decides if an AVO is necessary. Both parties must provide a written statement before the hearing; however, if the police have applied for the Order, they will prepare the statement. Once the statements are received, a hearing date is set.

The hearing is based on the written evidence in the statements. Sometimes the Court will allow further evidence to be added, or the police may provide some of their recorded evidence. The applicant presents their case first, followed by the defendant or defendant’s lawyer. Lawyers can call witnesses at this stage.

The magistrate will decide if the AVO is applicable.

Breaching An AVO

It is not wise to breach an Avo as there are penalties that apply for doing so. If you breach an order, you will risk a criminal conviction, and a record and penalties can range from quite expensive fines to imprisonment.

If someone you live with obtains an AVO against you, it will mean that you are required to move out of the house, and that will prevent you from seeing children or anyone else who is living at that location.

Withdrawing An AVO

If you have requested an AVO and decided you do not want to proceed, can it be withdrawn? If you have been served with an AVO by the police naming your partner as the protected person and they no longer want to proceed, can it be withdrawn?

These are essential questions to consider. When a police officer believes a person requires protection due to violence, abuse, or intimidating behavior, they can apply for an AVO. Your partner can approach the police and apply to have the AVO application withdrawn; however, it is in the police prosecutor’s hands. They will decide about the AVO. The police do this because some people who are being victimized or treated violently are too scared to apply for an AVO or may be concerned about the repercussions from their partner.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Will I get a criminal record if someone takes out an AVO against me?
    You will not get a criminal record; however, it is a criminal offense if you breach an AVO.
  2. I have breached my AVO. What should I do?
    It is a criminal offense to breach an AVO, an offense with a maximum penalty of two years in prison or a considerable fine. Speak to an AVO lawyer as soon as you can. They will assist you.
  3. What happens if the person does not adhere to the AVO?
    If the person you have taken out the AVO against breaches it in any way, call the police immediately.

Simon Fletcher is the Principal Solicitor at FletchLaw. He has been admitted as a solicitor to the High Court of Australia and the Supreme Court of New South Wales. His academic qualifications include of a Bachelor of Laws, a Graduate Certificate in Professional Legal Practice and a Master of Applied Laws (Mediation and Family Law Dispute Resolution). He can offer assistance in a wide variety of legal areas.

Do you have a problem with Apprehended Violence Orders or any other legal issue? Call us on 02 9159 9026 to find out how we can help.

Related articles
What is Separating?

Separating refers to the situation where two people stop living together as a couple. It happens when one or both Read more

Family Court
Family Law Court

The Family Court in Australia is a court that deals with family-related legal disputes, including divorce, child custody, and property Read more