Western Australia introduced a new type of restraining order, called a Family Violence Restraining Order (FVRO), on 1 July 2017. The new FVRO is additional to the existing Violence Restraining Order (VRO) and Misconduct Restraining Order (MRO) contained in the Restraining Orders Act 1997 (WA).
FVRO’s apply in circumstances where the parties are in a ‘family relationship’. The definition of family relationship is broad and includes not only spouses (including defacto and former spouses), but also parents, children (including step parents/children), boyfriend/girlfriend, uncles/aunts, grandparents and carers.
Where the parties are in a ‘family relationship’ a FVRO must be sought in lieu of a VRO or MRO.
Getting a FVRO
To get a FVRO, you must satisfy the Court that:
- The respondent has committed an act of family violence against you (or another person you are applying for);
- The respondent is likely to commit further family violence against you in the future.
What is ‘Family Violence’?
Family violence can include:
- an assault against a family member;
- a sexual assault or other sexually abusive behaviour against a family member;
- stalking or cyber‑stalking a family member;
- repeated derogatory remarks against a family member;
- damaging or destroying property of a family member;
- causing death or injury to an animal that is the property of a family member;
- unreasonably denying the family member the financial autonomy that a member would otherwise have had;
- unreasonably withholding financial support needed to meet the reasonable living expenses of a family member, or a child of a member, at a time when the member is entirely or predominantly dependent on the person for financial support;
- preventing a family member from making or keeping connections with the member’s family, friends or culture;
- kidnapping, or depriving the liberty of, a family member, or any other person with whom a member has a family relationship;
- distributing or publishing, or threatening to distribute or publish, intimate personal images of a family member; or
- causing any family member who is a child to be exposed to behaviour referred to in this section.
Alternative to FVRO
All Courts have significant backlogs. The time delay in Courts dealing with FVRO hearings can be up to 12 months. In the interim, the respondent can face serious impacts on their employment, time spent with their children and/or living arrangements. Stress, frustration and expense can also impact the applicant.
A ‘Conduct Agreement (CA)’ can alleviate some impacts on both the applicant and respondent. A CA involves the respondent (without admitting any family violence took place) agreeing to conduct themselves in a certain way. It is not a FVRO but any breach of agreed conduct will be a criminal offence as if a FVRO was breached.
A CA can provide protection to the applicant whilst mitigating some impacts on the respondent.