Restraining Orders in New South Wales

Restraining Orders in New South Wales

Restraining Orders in New South Wales

A restraining order is a legal directive issued by a court to protect an individual from harassment or harm by another person. It establishes boundaries, prohibiting the alleged offender from contact. 

The purpose is to ensure personal safety, especially in cases of domestic and personal violence, stalking, or threats. Restraining orders play a crucial role in conflict resolution by creating enforceable boundaries and minimising the likelihood of further confrontations.

Types of Restraining Orders in NSW

Different jurisdictions use various names for restraining orders, each tailored to the nature of the protection needed.

1. Apprehended Violence Orders (AVOs):

  • Prohibitions: Prevents the alleged offender from assaulting, harassing, threatening, or intimidating the protected person.
  • Contact Restrictions: Specifies a minimum distance the alleged offender must maintain from the protected person, their home, workplace, or other specified locations.
  • Additional Conditions: May include surrendering weapons, attending counselling programs, or other requirements deemed necessary by the local court.

2. Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders (DVOs):

  • Protection for Victims: Provides safeguards against family violence, encompassing physical, emotional, or financial abuse within a domestic relationship.
  • Child Protection: This can include provisions for the safety and well-being of children involved, such as custody arrangements and visitation restrictions.
  • Residence Exclusion: May exclude the alleged offender from the shared residence, providing the victim with a safe living space.

3. Apprehended Personal Violence Orders (APVOs):

  • Prohibitions: Apprehended Personal Violence Orders often prohibit the defendant from engaging in specific behaviours, such as assault, harassment, threats, or intimidation, towards the person seeking protection.
  • Contact Restrictions: The order may stipulate a minimum distance that the defendant must maintain from the protected person, their residence, workplace, or other specified locations.
  • Communication Restrictions: APVOs may restrict the defendant from contacting the protected person through various means, including in person, by phone, via social media, or through third parties.
  • Weapon Surrender: In some cases, the order may require the defendant to surrender any weapons in their possession or refrain from acquiring new ones.
  • Attendance at Counseling or Programs: The court may mandate that the defendant attend counselling or intervention programs to address underlying issues contributing to the violence or harassment.

4. Personal Protection Orders (PPOs):

  • No-Contact Orders: Prohibits the alleged offender from contacting, approaching, or communicating with the protected person directly or indirectly.
  • Location Restrictions: Specifies areas the alleged offender must avoid, such as the person’s home, workplace, or school.
  • Other Specifics: These can include provisions like refraining from stalking, harassing, or threatening behaviour and may also address issues like cyberstalking.

It’s important to note that the exact conditions and protections can vary based on local laws and the specifics of each case. The aim is to tailor the restraining order to address the unique circumstances of the perceived threat or harm.

Legal Grounds for Obtaining a Restraining Order

Obtaining a restraining order necessitates meeting specific legal criteria, often contingent on a credible and imminent threat of harm, harassment, or abuse. Demonstrating a reasonable fear and establishing a qualifying relationship with the alleged offender, such as family ties or domestic connections, is typically required. 

Past incidents of violence, threats, or harassment can bolster the case, and providing evidence—ranging from witness statements to documentation of communications—strengthens the petitioner’s position. 

Examples of situations warranting a restraining order encompass family violence, including physical, emotional, or financial abuse, stalking with unwanted pursuit or cyber elements, persistent harassment causing emotional distress, and threats or intimidation expressed verbally or through behaviour. 

These legal safeguards are crucial in addressing and preventing potential harm, ensuring they are granted based on valid and substantiated concerns. It’s essential to consult local laws and seek legal advice for jurisdiction-specific details and procedures.

The Application Process for Restraining Orders

To secure a restraining order in NSW, follow this step-by-step process:

  1. Contact the Police: If facing immediate danger, dial 000 for police assistance. For non-emergencies, call 131 444. 
  2. Submit an Application: Complete an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order application form, available at your local court or online. Provide details of violence or harassment experienced and reasons for seeking the order. Submit the application and attachments to a magistrate’s court.
  3. Attend a Court Hearing: After application submission, a court date for a hearing will be assigned. Attend the hearing, presenting evidence supporting your case.
  4. Secure an Interim Order: If the court perceives a risk of harm, it may issue an interim order, offering immediate protection until the final hearing.
  5. Final Hearing Attendance: At the final hearing, the court reviews all evidence to decide whether to grant a final Apprehended Domestic Violence Order. The order outlines specific conditions the restrained person must adhere to if approved.
  6. Enforcement: The ADVO, once granted, becomes legally enforceable. Any breach of its conditions by the restrained person can be reported to the police for investigation and potential charges.

In obtaining a restraining order, the police and courts collaborate closely. The police provide emergency and non-emergency assistance, document incidents crucial for the application, and recommend interim measures. 

The courts manage the formal application process, scheduling hearings, and deciding on interim orders for immediate protection. At the final hearing, the court reviews evidence to determine if a permanent restraining order is warranted, outlining specific conditions for the restrained person. 

Once granted, the order becomes legally enforceable, and any breaches can be reported to the police for investigation and potential charges. Together, these entities ensure the safety of those seeking protection through the restraining order process.

The Role of Evidence in Restraining Order Cases

In pursuing a restraining order, the significance of evidence cannot be overstated, as it forms the bedrock for establishing the credibility and necessity of the order. The court relies on a robust body of evidence to assess the legitimacy of the petitioner’s claims and make informed decisions regarding the issuance of the order. 

Valid and persuasive evidence encompasses detailed incident documentation, witness statements, photographic proof of injuries or damage, preserved communications, medical records, police reports, and, if applicable, expert testimony. 

A well-documented case with diverse and reliable evidence strengthens the petitioner’s position and gives the court a comprehensive understanding of the alleged harassment, threats, or violence.

Through this compelling evidence, the petitioner seeks to convince the court of their genuine and credible threat, justifying the imperative need for legal protection through a restraining order.

Court Hearings and Legal Proceedings

In a court hearing for a restraining order, individuals should anticipate a structured process involving the presentation of evidence, examination and cross-examination, legal arguments, and a final decision by the court. 

Both parties may present their case, including witness testimonies and documents supporting their claims. Legal representatives, if involved, play a crucial role in presenting arguments based on relevant laws and advocating for their client’s position. 

The court assesses the evidence and legal arguments to determine whether to grant the restraining order, potentially issuing interim or final orders with specific conditions. While individuals have the right to represent themselves, many opt for legal assistance to navigate the complexities effectively. 

Legal representation provides a deep understanding of laws, advocacy for client interests, and an increased likelihood of a favourable outcome by ensuring adherence to legal procedures and protecting the petitioner’s rights.

Violations and Enforcement of Restraining Orders

The consequences of violating a restraining order are substantial, reflecting the legal gravity of these protective measures. Breaching the conditions of such orders is a criminal offence that can result in criminal charges, empowering law enforcement to arrest the responsible party. 

If found guilty, individuals may face penalties imposed by the court, including fines and, in more severe cases, imprisonment for a specified duration. The enforcement mechanisms are robust, emphasising the legal obligation to uphold restraining orders. 

Once issued by the court, these orders become legally enforceable, and law enforcement agencies are tasked with taking swift action in response to any violations reported by the protected person.

Reporting violations, legal proceedings, and consequences for the offender collectively form a comprehensive system aimed at deterring breaches and safeguarding the well-being of individuals seeking protection through restraining orders.

Impact of Restraining Orders on the Parties Involved

A restraining order offers immediate relief and security for the applicant but may intensify tensions. The respondent faces restrictions impacting daily life, with potential legal consequences for breaches, leading to strained relationships.

The applicant gains increased safety but may endure emotional tolls, requiring ongoing support. For the respondent, long-term impacts involve challenges in personal and professional life, affecting employment and relationships.

Applicants should prioritise emotional well-being, create safety plans, and explore long-term solutions. Respondents must understand legal obligations, seek help for underlying issues, and consider legal avenues for order modification or appeal. Communication with legal professionals is crucial for both parties.

Frequently Asked Questions About Restraining Orders

1. What is the Difference Between an AVO and an ADVO?

The primary distinction between an AVO and an ADVO lies in their scope of application. An Apprehended Violence Order can be sought against any person, whereas an ADVO specifically pertains to individuals involved in a domestic relationship. A domestic relationship encompasses family members, spouses, de facto partners, and children. This divergence holds significant implications, especially when considering modifications or the dismissal of an Apprehended Violence Order. Australia, grappling with a notable incidence of family violence—approximately 35% of Australian women reported such experiences, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics—reflects this difference in the frequency of police applications for Apprehended Violence Orders and Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders.

2. How Old Do I Need To Be To Get A Restraining Order?

Individuals aged 18 and above can seek a misconduct or violence restraining order by applying through any Magistrates Court. For those under 18, the appropriate avenue is the Children’s Court of WA, and the application can be initiated by a guardian, police officer, or child welfare officer on behalf of the individual. The necessary application forms are accessible through this link.

3. How Much Will It Cost To Get A Restraining Order?

Applying for a violence restraining order at the Magistrates Court incurs no fees. If a legal service provider is not submitting your initial application, you must personally lodge the VRO application at any Magistrates Court Registry.


Restraining orders are critical in promoting safety and justice by providing a legal framework to protect individuals from harassment, threats, or violence. These orders are powerful tools to establish boundaries, deter potential harm, and create a safer environment. 

If you find yourself in a situation warranting a restraining order, seeking appropriate help and legal advice is crucial. Contact local law enforcement, support services, or legal professionals who can guide you through the process, ensuring your rights are protected, and you have the necessary support during a challenging time. 

Your safety and well-being are paramount, and resources are available to help you navigate the legal system and obtain the protection you need.

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