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FVRO Conferencing Explained.
[Narrator] Have you applied to the Magistrates Court of Western Australia for a family violence restraining order?
[Magistrate] Based on the evidence before me I will issue an interim family violence restraining order.
[Narrator] Or had an order made against you?
[Respondent] Do you reckon I get a say or is it already all decided?
[Narrator] A family violence restraining order, or FVRO is made to protect the applicant, the person who has applied for the order from violence, threats or abuse from a family member, former family member or intimate partner.
The person who has had an order made against them is called the respondent.
The order sets out strict conditions about future contact between the applicant and respondent.
[Magistrate] The respondent will not be permitted to come within 20 metres of you, or your property.
[Narrator] If the respondent does something not allowed by one of the conditions, they are breaching the FVRO.
Breaching an FVRO is a criminal offence with serious penalties that can include imprisonment.
The decision to seek a family violence restraining order often comes at a time when fears and emotions are running high, and the thought of appearing in court can seem very challenging.
However, to allow both parties to negotiate and agree on the final conditions of the order, you can take part in a family violence restraining order conference sometimes called a conference, or conferencing.
This video will explain how the conference works and what you can do to be better prepared to participate.
A conference takes place at the court but with the applicant and respondent in separate rooms, often in different parts of the court building.
This means that there is no face-to-face contact with the other party.
A court appointed registrar will move back and forth between the two rooms as you work through the proposed conditions.
And try to agree on an arrangement that will work for both parties.
In applying for an FVRO, or responding to an order made against you, you are given the option to opt out of the conference process if you wish.
This means you don't have to go to a conference.
However if you do not opt out, a conference may be listed by the court.
You will receive a notice to attend a Magistrates Court location on a specific date and time.
If you don't attend without notifying the court, the registrar may make a decision without hearing your side of the story.
This could be a final FVRO or if it is the applicant, who doesn't attend, the registrar could dismiss the application and interim orders that are already in place.
In cases where the applicant or respondent decides to opt out of the conference, the matter will be listed for a final order hearing.
Or if there's no response or objection to the conditions of the order from the respondent, then the Magistrates Court will make the interim order, a final order and it comes into full effect.
However by participating cooperatively in a conference, you have a chance to make an agreement that suits your situation.
Ensuring the best possible outcome for everyone involved and avoiding the stress of a final order hearing.
While you will both be directed to different areas of the court, if you have any concerns about your safety, it is important that you make the court aware of this before your conference date.
Make sure you arrive at the court with enough time to get through security before your conference is due to start.
You will need to speak with the court staff so you can be directed to the right part of the building.
To help achieve the best possible outcome, we recommend that you get legal advice about the restraining order, before the conference.
Free legal representation is available for both applicants and respondents from Legal Aid WA or other community legal organisations.
A list of legal service providers that can help you at a conference is available on the Magistrates Court website.
You can also pay a private lawyer to represent you.
You can come to the court alone or with a friend, family member or support worker, to support you through the process.
Your lawyer can also come with you if you decide to have one.
When the conference is ready to begin the registrar will call each party into a separate conference room.
The conference room is smaller than a courtroom, however there is plenty of space if you have a lawyer, or a support person with you.
[Registrar] Good morning, I'm Registrar Thompson and I'll be conducting the conference today.
I've read the court's record and have an understanding of the issues that are involved in your matter.
[Registrar] I'm not the magistrate and I'm not here to decide who is right or wrong.
I'm an independent third party who has had a lot of experience in helping people resolve their disputes.
Everything that is said during the conference is confidential, meaning that it cannot be repeated outside the conference or before the trial magistrate if I refer the matter to a final order hearing.
[Narrator] The registrar will move between the two locations, helping each party reach agreement on the conditions of the order, and, while each conference is different it may take up to two hours.
[Registrar] What I'm hearing from you is that you wish to maintain contact with your children.
At this point in time the applicant is seeking an order whereby you would have no direct contact with her and all contact with the children needs to be supervised.
What do you think would be a workable solution?
[Narrator] If you have your lawyer with you, you can ask them for help when you are unsure about what to do.
[Respondent] I really can't go without seeing, you know, having contact with my kids, regardless of how it is between Natalie and me.
My mum's got a pretty good relationship with Natalie is there any way we could get her to arrange the pick up and drop off or something like that?
[Registrar] The respondent accepts the fact that the final order should be in place however he wants the order to say that he can still have contact visits with the children.
He accepts the visits should be supervised for now.
I've asked him how this could work and he has suggested that his mother could contact you and make arrangements and she could also supervise the visits.
Can you see any problem with that arrangement?
[Applicant] That should be fine I suppose.
She's actually been really great throughout all of this.
As long as she's the one to drop them off and pick them up though.
[Registrar] That would certainly be a workable solution, we could add into the final order.
[Narrator] The registrar will continue to work through the order with you to address the areas of concern and help you to agree on the final conditions.
[Registrar] Based on the agreements reached we can now issue final orders with the conditions you've both agreed to.
I do need to remind you that not following the conditions is a criminal offence known as a breach of a family violence restraining orders and it has very serious penalties.
[Narrator] Where agreement on conditions can't be reached, the registrar will refer the matter back to the court for a final order hearing before a magistrate.
However in most cases a conference will have a successful outcome and there are a few points that you may wish to keep in mind to help achieve this.
Before the conference take some time to think through the conditions on the interim FVRO.
What would be the best outcome for you and your family?
Are there issues where you'd be prepared to compromise?
Have you looked at the order from the other party's perspective?
Do you need legal advice about related family law issues?
There are no child minding facilities at the court so you should make suitable arrangements including after school care for your children.
If you are unable to arrange childcare the court may be able to assist, so let them know as soon as possible.
Make sure that you allow enough time to get to the court without being rushed.
And think about how you are going to get there and home safely.
While a family violence restraining order conference is less formal than other court procedures, you are still inside a court and should behave in a calm and respectful manner.
Abusive, or threatening behaviour could result in the registrar closing the conference and calling court security or the police.
A conference can remove much of the stress and pressure of a more traditional FVRO court hearing.
Importantly, it provides both applicant and respondent with an opportunity to agree on conditions designed to be both fair and effective in managing their specific circumstances.
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For more information, including courthouse contact details and a list of support services that can help you through the FVRO process, visit: www.magistratescourt.wa.gov.au.