Domestic & Family Violence Newcastle & Central Coast Lawyers

What is family and domestic violence?

Domestic violence refers to violence or abuse between individuals in an intimate relationship, or who were in an intimate relationship. In the past, it mainly referred to violence in heterosexual relationships; but now it has been extended to include violence and abuse within gay, lesbian and transgender relationships.

Family violence is used to describe other family relationships where there is violence and abuse. It includes abuse of children by parents, adolescents’ violence towards parents and abuse of elders by children and other family members.

There are different types of violence or abuse and they include:

1. Physical abuse – this can be actual physical abuse or threatened, that results in pain, injury and/or fear; and it that can be a one-off incident or a series of incidents.

Examples: a direct assault on the body (kicking, punching, spitting, pushing, slapping, eye injuries, shaking, choking, strangulation, etc.), smashing things, using weapons, denying medical support or medications, being deprived of food and sleep.

2. Sexual abuse can be actual or threatened, including sexual assault and the sexual abuse of children and it can be a one-off incident or a series of incidents. It can be in different forms, ranging from sexual harassment to life-threatening rape.

Examples: being forced to have sex or be involved in sexual acts against your will, being made to watch pornography.

3. Verbal abuse can be actual or threatened, done publicly or privately (including by electronic means) intended to intimidate, humiliate, insult or degrade.

Examples: threats (including physical threats), shouting, put-downs.

4. Emotional/psychological abuse involves using manipulative behaviour to mentally, psychologically or emotionally control, coerce or harm.

Examples: reducing someone’s self-esteem by comparing them with others, humiliation, manipulation, playing mind games. For individuals in same-sex relationships, abusive partners can rely on homophobia or heterosexism as a tool to control their partners. They can involve ‘outing’ or threatening to ‘out’ their partner to friends, family, or employers.

5. Cultural/spiritual abuse involves an individual being harmed because of not letting them practice their cultural or spiritual beliefs, or they are harmed because of forcing them to practice a cultural or spiritual belief.

Examples: misusing religious or cultural traditions to justify physical violence or any other form of abuse, forcing children to follow a faith or culture that the partner has not agreed to.

6. Financial/economic abuse – this occurs when someone controls the other’s individual financial resources without their consent or misuses their resources.

Examples: controlling money and decisions around its use, taking or limiting money, not allowing a person to look for or keep a job.

7. Stalking – Monitoring another person, especially in a way that makes the person feel uncomfortable in a repetitive and devious manner. Stalking of an intimate partner can occur during the relationship or take place after a partner or spouse has left the relationship.

Examples: cyberstalking, driving past the person’s house intentionally, watching the person from parked cars, sending unwanted gifts or notes.

8. Technology facilitated abuse – the use of digital technology to harass, threaten, monitor and control another person, no matter how subtle.

Examples: threats to a person via social media, monitoring a person through access to their online bank accounts, tracking through mobile phone apps.

9. Social abuse occurs when one is forced to detach from their family or friends and can be actual or threatened.

Examples: systematically isolating a person from their family or friends, monitoring the person’s movements, viewing their phone messages.

What is personal violence?

Personal violence happens between people who are not in a domestic relationship, for example, colleagues, friends, and neighbours. Personal violence comprises the 9 types of violence or abuse discussed above.

What is an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO)?

Apprehended Violence Orders are court orders that stop the behaviour and protect the victim. They are often referred to as an ‘AVO’ and sometimes people (wrongly!) call them ‘intervention orders’.

The person who makes the application is called the ‘Applicant’ or the ‘Protected Person’. The person to whom the order is made is called the ‘Respondent’.

Applications can be made to protect more than one person.

Are there types of Apprehended Violence Orders?

Yes, there are two types of AVOs:

  1. Apprehended Domestic Violence Order

This order is made when the people involved are part of a domestic relationship, for example, spouses, flatmates or siblings.

  1. Apprehended Personal Violence Order

This order covers all other types of relationships, for example, between colleagues, friends, and neighbours.

Both orders prohibit the same behaviours outlined above.

How do you get an Apprehend Violence Order?

An application for an AVO will be decided by a Magistrate in the Local Court. If you or the people you care for need an AVO, Fourtree Lawyers can help you with the application process and represent you in court. Our caring and confidential approach will ensure you don’t need to see or talk to the Respondent (the person the order is against) at court.

Once a provisional AVO is issued a court date will be set to decide whether a final AVO is necessary.

What is a provisional AVO?

AVOs are first issued as a provisional order. This means that the order is temporary until the Respondent (the person the order is against) is given a copy of the order. The court decides whether a final order is necessary.

Provisional AVOs will specify which court and the date and time of the first court date (called a ‘mention’). The court date will be within 28 days of the provisional AVO, so the parties don’t have to wait long to have the matter resolved.

Why are some AVO's issued by the police?

Often if police are called to a domestic or personal dispute, they will issue a provisional AVO, meaning that the police are the Applicant. In some circumstances, police are legally obliged to do so.

Why is there an AVO and criminal charges?

AVOs are different from police charges, but sometimes they arise from the same incident; for example, in a fight between a couple, the police might charge someone with assault and issue an AVO to protect the victim.

What orders can be made?

AVOs ensure the safety of the Protected Person by prohibiting the Respondent’s behaviour. There are a lot of different orders the court can make. The most common prevent the Respondent from:

  • assaulting, threatening, stalking, harassing or intimidating the Protected Person,
  • intentionally or recklessly destroying or damaging the Protected Person’s property, or
  • living at the same address as the Protected Person.

In more serious matters, an AVO may prohibit the Respondent from:

  • approaching the Protected Person,
  • contacting the Protected Person except through a lawyer, or
  • going within a certain distance of where the Protected Person lives, works or studies, or another place, for example, the Protected Person’s child’s school.

AVOs can also be made with property recovery orders to direct a party to return property.

Why are my kids on the AVO?

If the Protected Person is a parent, AVOs can be made to protect them and their children.

How long can an AVO last?

The typical duration of an AVO is between 6 months and 2 years, but Magistrates have the power to make AVOs for as long as they want. That’s why it’s so important to get legal advice, especially if you are the Respondent.

What happens if an AVO is made against me?

The circumstances of every AVO are different. If you have been served with a Provisional AVO, Fourtree Lawyers can explain your options considering what happened and help you decide what to do next.

The first court date in an AVO matter is called a ‘mention’. At the mention, the court can make a final AVO if the order has been served or adjourn the matter until another date if the order was not served.

Your options at the mention can include:

  1. ‘Consent to the AVO without admission’ means that you do not admit that the AVO is necessary but agree to follow the orders regardless. This often happens if a relationship is over and you won’t have any contact with the other person.
  2. Ask to vary the orders or length of the AVO and consent to it without admission. Fourtree Lawyers can help by negotiating with the other party or police on your behalf to get a good outcome so that all parties can move on safely.
  3. Telling the court you will defend the AVO. The Court will set a hearing date.

Defending an AVO

If you defend an AVO, the matter will be decided by a Magistrate at a hearing. The Magistrate will consider whether the order is necessary for the safety of the Protected Person, any hardship that may be caused, accommodation needs and any other relevant matter.

What if I don’t want the AVO?

If you are a Protected Person and do not believe that you need protection, we can help by changing or getting rid of the AVO. 

What happens if an AVO is breached?

An AVO breach (or contravention) is a serious matter because the police can issue a criminal charge. Breach of an AVO can result in 2 years imprisonment and a hefty fine.

Depending on the circumstances of the breach, the police may also issue a charge in relation to the Respondent’s actions. Using the above example of an assault on a spouse, the Respondent may be charged with breaching the AVO by assaulting the Protected Person, as well as having been charged with assault.

There are sometimes explanations for breaches. For example, if you were not served with the AVO, you should seek assistance as soon as possible if you have been charged with breaching an AVO.

More reading -

What is an AVO?

What's the difference between an ADVO and an APVO?



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