You can use the following step by step guide to assist you if you are representing yourself. If the police are representing you, this step by step guide can help you understand what happens before and during the hearing.
Step 1: Before the hearing
Even though your case may be listed at a certain time, it is a good idea to try to get to court half an hour earlier so that you can find out what courtroom your case is in. If you think you are going to be late, you should ring the court registry and let them know. If you are not there the Court can decide your case without you.
There are often many cases listed on the same day and you may have to wait until your name is called. You can take a seat in the courtroom or, if the courtroom is full, you can wait outside. Don't forget to turn off your mobile phone before going into the courtroom. Make sure you don't leave the courthouse and are close enough to the courtroom to hear your name called.
The courtroom will for morning tea (usually around 11:30am) and lunch (usually from 1:00pm to 2:00pm). You will have to leave the courtroom during these breaks. The court officer or the registry can tell you what time the courtroom will reopen.
It is possible that you could be at court for a few hours, and sometimes for most of the day, so you should make arrangements with your work or child-care if necessary.
Before the hearing starts, or sometime during the hearing but before it finishes, the defendant might:
- consent (agree) to the Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) without admissions. This means they agree to the terms of the AVO but do not admit they have done anything wrong. If the defendant consents, a Final AVO will be made and there will be no need to go ahead with the hearing.
- offer undertakings (formal promise). This means they agree not to do the things listed in the AVO. The terms of the undertakings are put in writing and placed on the court file. Before you accept any undertakings, you should get
legal advice. Undertakings can't be enforced. If the defendant breaches an undertaking they will not face any legal consequences.
- ask to collect their belongings from your home.
If you are female and applying for an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO) you can wait in the safe room. Ask to speak to a worker at the Women's Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service.
Step 2: What to do and say in the courtroom
Once your case is called, you should sit at the bar table at the front of the courtroom. Get out your papers and arrange them so you can find things when you need them during the hearing. Only put items on the table that you need. Don't leave your bags on the bar table.
AVO hearings in the Local Court are held before a magistrate.
- refer to the Magistrate as 'Your Honour'
- stand and bow when the Magistrate enters or leaves the courtroom
- stand up to speak to the Magistrate
- always be polite to the magistrate, other court staff and the other party
- refer to the other party or their lawyer as Mr/Ms and their surname.
For more information, see
Who's who in court.
Step 3: Adjournments
Sometimes you or the defendant may need to ask the Court to adjourn (postpone) the hearing to another date.
If the defendant doesn't go to the hearing, the Court may adjourn the hearing or they may go ahead and run the hearing without the defendant there.
If you don't go to the hearing, and you have not asked for an adjournment, the Court may adjourn the hearing or they may dismiss the application.
The Court may not agree to an adjournment unless there is a good reason. There may be an adjournment if either you or the defendant, or an important witness, has a good reason for not being able to make it to the hearing.
If the Court does agree to an adjournment, they will often make a costs order against the party who needed the adjournment.
For more information, see
Costs in Apprehended Violence Order cases.
Step 4: The hearing
When the Magistrate sits down, they will make sure that all of the parties are present in the courtroom.
The Magistrate would have read any statements that were filed at the court registry by you and the defendant. The Magistrate will then want to hear the rest of the evidence in the case.
When you give evidence, or when the Domestic Violence Evidence in Chief (DVEC) recording is played, the Court must be closed and everyone not involved in the case will have to leave the courtroom. You may also be able to give evidence in other ways such as by audio visual link (AVL) or from another room. These options do not apply to proceedings that commenced before 25 November 2020.
From 1 September 2021, in a domestic violence criminal matter or related apprehended violence order proceedings where the Defendant is self-represented, the Defendant is not allowed to directly ask you questions about your evidence in court. In this situation, the Court will appoint a suitable person to ask the questions on behalf of the Defendant. Court appointed questioners are court staff or Justices of the Peace.
For more information see,
Arguing your case.
If the defendant doesn't go to the hearing, you can ask the Magistrate to make a Final AVO in the defendant's absence. The Magistrate may ask you to give evidence about the reasons why you need the AVO.
Step 5: The decision
After hearing the evidence the Court will either:
- make a Final AVO, or
- dismiss the application.
The Court will usually make a decision straight away. Sometimes the Court may want to take a short break or the decision will be 'reserved'. This means that a decision is not given on the day of the hearing and the Court will contact you when the decision has been made or you will be given another date to come back to court for the decision to be given.
The Court will give reasons for its decision.
The Court will only make a Final AVO if it is satisfied on the 'balance of probabilities' (meaning that something is more likely to be true than not) that you fear, and that it is reasonable for you to fear, that the defendant will:
- be violent towards you,
- harass, intimidate or stalk you
- damage your property.
In domestic violence cases the Court can make a Final AVO even if the protected person doesn't actually fear the defendant, provided there are reasonable grounds for that fear. In this case the Court will be limited to making the mandatory orders.
For more information, see