Applying for a Domestic Violence Order in the Northern Territory
Domestic Violence Orders in the Northern Territory are governed by the Domestic and Family Violence Act 2007. This Act gives the NT courts the power to make Doemstic Violence Orders (DVOs) restraining a person from engaging in certain behaviours towards another person and makes it a criminal offence to breach a DVO. This page deals with Domestic Violence Orders in the Northern Territory.
The aim of DVOs is to ensure the safety and protection of individuals who are experiencing, or who are at risk of experiencing, domestic violence, and to prevent domestic violence from occurring.
What is domestic violence?
Under section 5 of the Domestic and Family Violence Act 2007, domestic violence includes doing any of the following to a person with whom one is in a domestic relationship:
- Any conduct causing harm;
- Damage to property (including causing injury or death to an animal);
- Stalking; and
- Economic abuse.
- Threats and attempts to do any of the above.
What is a domestic relationship?
Under section 9 of the Domestic and Family Violence Act 2007, a domestic relationship includes:
- A spouse or former spouse
- A de facto partner or former partner
- A relative
- A person who ordinarily lives with another person
- The family member of a person who ordinarily lives with a person
- A person who is in a carer relationship with another person
- A person who has custody or guardianship of another person
This definition includes mothers, fathers, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws, stepchildren, flatmates (and their families) and exes.
An extended definition of family relationships applies to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as including all individuals who are relatives according to tradition or contemporary social practice.
If a person fears violence from a person who they are not in a domestic relationship with, they may still be able to apply for a Personal Violence Order in the Northern Territory. A lawyer can help determine which order is right for you and guide you through the application process.
Applying for a Domestic Violence Order in the Northern Territory
A police officer, a person seeking protection, or an adult acting on behalf of another person can apply for a DVO in the NT. To apply for a DVO for yourself, you must be 15 or older. If you are under 15, an adult can make the application on your behalf.
A person who is experiencing domestic violence can apply for a DVO by filing an application in their Local Court, which is then served on the defendant. The applicant will need to file evidence in support of the application establishing:
- That the parties are in a domestic relationship;
- Why there is reason to fear domestic violence by the defendant against the person seeking protection. This may include past instances of violence or threats of future violence.
A person who feels they are in immediate danger of family or domestic violence should call the police on 000.
If a person is in urgent need of protection, an interim Domestic Violence Order can be made. This is a temporary order that restrains the defendant from doing certain behaviours towards the protected person until the matter goes to court and a magistrate can make a decision about whether a final order should be made.
The defendant will then be informed of the application, served with the interim order and summoned to appear in court when the application is heard. The defendant can consent to the order without admissions or oppose the order.
If the defendant opposes the order, the court will set a date for a contested hearing. On that day it will hear evidence and submissions from both parties before deciding whether to make the order.
When will a Domestic Violence Order be made in the Northern Territory?
Under section 18 of the Domestic and Family Violence Act 2007, a DVO may be made if there are reasonable grounds for the protected person to fear the commission of domestic violence against them by the defendant.
If it is a police application, an order may be made even though the protected person claims they do not have any fears provided that a reasonable person would be fearful in similar circumstances.
Under section 19 of the Domestic and Family Violence Act 2007, the safety and protection of the protected person are of paramount importance when determining whether to make an order. Other factors that the court must consider include:
- Any existing or pending family law orders relating to the defendant;
- The accommodation needs of the protected person;
- The defendant’s criminal record;
- The defendant’s previous conduct towards the protected person or anyone else; and
- Any matters the court thinks are relevant.
If the defendant and protected person ordinarily live in the same household with a child, the court must presume that the protection of the protected person and the child is best achieved by them continuing to live in the family home.
A court is also empowered to include a condition in the DVO that the defendant takes part in a rehabilitation program. This condition can only be made if the court is satisfied that the defendant is a suitable person to take part in the program. There must also be availability in the program and the defendant consents to participating.
Under section 21 of the Domestic and Family Violence Act 2007, a court may impose constraints on the defendant that are necessary or desirable to prevent the commission of domestic violence against the protected person.
Conditions may include that the defendant refrain from harassing, abusing or threatening the protected person, that the defendant refrain from contacting the protected person directly or indirectly or that the defendant refrain from contacting the protected person when intoxicated.
How long does a DVO last in the Northern Territory?
The order will state on it how long it is in force. If circumstances change, an application can be made by either party to have the conditions varied or revoked.
You should seek the assistance of a lawyer when making a variation or revocation application.
Breaches of DVOs
A DVO is a civil order. Having a DVO against you is not a criminal offence. However, a breach of a DVO is a criminal offence under section 120 of the Domestic and Family Violence Act 2007.
Mandatory sentencing for second breach DVO offence
However, if a person is found guilty of breach DVO and has previously been found guilty of breaching a DVO, the court must record a conviction and sentence them to at least seven days imprisonment unless the breach did not result in harm to the protected person and the court considers it is not appropriate to do so.
What to do about a breach
If you are the protected person in a DVO and you believe that there has been a breach, you should contact the police immediately. Keep details of the breach, such as time, date, place, and what occurred, to assist them when investigating the incident.
If a DVO is in place that prohibits the defendant from making contact with you, you should not initiate contact. If there has been change in circumstances, you may apply for the conditions of the order to be changed or for the order to be revoked.
If you have a DVO against you, it is important that you obey all of its conditions. Failure to do so is a criminal offence, even if the protected person initiated the contact.
If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.