Communities and Justice

Getting an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO)

What is an AVO?

An Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) is an order made by a court against a person who makes you fear for your safety. The purpose of an AVO is to protect you from further violence, intimidation or harassment.

All AVOs say that the person you fear (known as the defendant) must not assault, harass, threaten, stalk or intimidate you. The defendant must obey the conditions of the AVO. If the defendant breaches the AVO, they may be charged with a criminal offence.

There are 2 types of AVOs:

1.     Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO)

An ADVO is made where the people involved are in a domestic relationship. A domestic relationship means the people involved are related, living together in the same household, in a current or former intimate relationship, in a dependant care arrangement including foster carers, carers for a person with a disability or disability support workers, or people living in the same residential facility.

In the case of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person, ADVOs can be made where the people involved are part of the kin or extended family of the other person according to cultural kinship systems.

2.     Apprehended Personal Violence Order (APVO)

An APVO is made where the people involved are not related and do not have a domestic relationship, for example co-workers or neighbours.

Who can apply for an AVO?

Most AVO applications are made by NSW Police on behalf of the person(s) protected by the AVO.

Alternatively, you can apply for an AVO for your own protection if:

  • you are aged 16 years or older, and
  • you have been the victim of physical or sexual assault, threatened with physical harm, been stalked, harassed or intimidated, and believe that this behaviour will continue.

How do I apply for an AVO?

For help and advice about making an application for an AVO you can:

  • Call police on triple 000 or the non-emergency phone line 131 444
  • Visit your local police station and speak to a general duties police officer or the Domestic Violence Liaison Officer (DVLO)
  • Contact your local court
  • Contact a service provider such as Legal Aid NSW.

What services can help me with an AVO?

Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services (WDVCAS) are locally-based, independent services that provide information, advocacy and referrals to assist women and their children who are or have been experiencing domestic and family violence, with their legal, social and welfare needs. This includes helping women seek protection through an ADVO. There are WDVCAS at all 136 local court locations across NSW.

Phone: 1800 938 227

Law Access NSW is a free government telephone and webchat service that provides legal information, referrals and in some cases, advice for people who have a legal problem in NSW.

Phone: 1300 888 529
TTY Phone1300 889 529 
Contact information for people who are Deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech impairment are set out on the Law Access NSW website.

Under the Domestic Violence Duty Scheme Legal Aid NSW funds private lawyers to assist women and children experiencing domestic violence in court proceedings. You can find out more through your local WDVCAS or by calling Law Access NSW on the contact details above.

Do I need a lawyer?

If the police have applied for an AVO on your behalf, you don't need a lawyer as the Police Prosecutor will present the matter in court.

If you have applied for an Apprehended Violence Order on your own through the Local Court, it is a good idea to get a lawyer to represent you. You can represent yourself if you want to. Legal aid is available in Apprehended Violence Order matters through Legal Aid NSW.

If you need legal help call LawAccess NSW on 1300 888 529 or you can find your local Legal Aid NSW office.

What happens after I apply for an AVO?

The police will serve the application on the defendant. The application states the date and time the defendant has to attend court.

If the defendant has been served with the application but does not come to court and does not have a good reason for not attending, the court can make an Order in their absence.

Sometimes the police are not able to serve the defendant with the application by the time you first go to court. If this happens, your case will be adjourned (postponed) to give the police more time to serve the defendant.

You can ask the court to make an Interim (temporary) Order to protect you during the period of the adjournment. The magistrate may need to hear some evidence from you to make an Interim Order.

What happens at court?

The court can make an AVO if:

  • the defendant agrees to an AVO being made; or
  • after hearing evidence, the magistrate is satisfied that there are fears for your safety and those fears are reasonable; or
  • the defendant has been served but does not show up at court.

Consent Orders

The magistrate can make an AVO if the defendant agrees to the Order being made. The defendant can consent (agree) to the Order being made, without admitting that they have done anything wrong. In this case, your Order will be made that day.

Interim Orders and hearings

If the defendant does not consent to the AVO, your case will be adjourned (postponed) for the magistrate to make a decision about whether there are grounds to make the Order.

It's important that you ask the court for an Interim (temporary) AVO to protect you until the hearing.

If your matter is adjourned for hearing, you may be told by the magistrate to provide written statements to the court by a certain date. Directions about these statements will be given to you by the court. Your matter will then be "listed for mention" to see if both you and the defendant have followed the court’s directions.

Failing to comply

If you (the applicant) have failed to comply with these directions, the application for an AVO may be dismissed, or the court may order you to file any outstanding statements.

If the defendant does not comply with the direction, they may not be able to give any evidence at the hearing.

If neither of you comply with this direction the application for an AVO will be dismissed.

Listed for hearing

Once you and the defendant have complied with the court’s direction, the matter will be "listed for hearing".

It is important that you attend court for your matter. If you do not attend, the ADVO application may be dismissed.

If the defendant does not attend, the Order may be made in their absence.

What happens at the hearing?

The hearing will be based on the evidence contained in the statements unless the court allows additional evidence or evidence to be given verbally.

The applicant (you) presents their case first. The defendant or their solicitor will then have the opportunity to ask you and your witnesses questions about your evidence.

The defendant then has the opportunity to present their case.

You or your lawyer (or the Police Prosecutor in a police application) will be able to ask the defendant and their witnesses questions about their evidence. It is up to the applicant to prove to the magistrate that an AVO should be made.

The defendant does not have to prove than an Order should not be made.

In certain circumstances, the accused person is prohibited from cross-examining a victim-survivor. For more information, please read the changes to cross examination for Domestic Violence complainants fact sheet (PDF, 448.3 KB).

What types of conditions can be put in an AVO?

If an AVO is made, 3 conditions will always be included. These conditions prohibit the defendant from the following behaviour:

  1. assaulting or threatening the Protected Person
  2. stalking, harassing or intimidating the Protected Person
  3. intentionally or recklessly destroying or damaging any property or harming an animal that belongs to or is in the possession of the Protected Person

Extra conditions may be included in the AVO prohibiting the defendant from:

  • approaching or contacting the Protected Person, unless through a lawyer
  • approaching any school or place the Protected person might go to for study or childcare
  • approaching or being in the company of the Protected Person within at least 12 hours after drinking alcohol or taking illicit drugs
  • trying to find the Protected Person
  • living at the same address as the protected person or another address listed on the AVO
  • going into any place where the protected person lives or works or another place listed on the AVO
  • going within a particular distance of where the protected person lives, works or another place listed on the AVO
  • possessing any firearms or prohibited weapons
  • any other conditions as agreed by both parties or decided by the court

For ADVOs, the court can also make specific orders about contact related to family law and parenting.

Property Recovery Orders

If you left your personal property (belongings) with the defendant, or the defendant has left personal property with you, you can get them returned through the court Property Recover Order. The order can only be made at the same time that a Provisional, Interim or Final AVO is made.

A Property Recovery Order sets out how the belongings should be returned. An order may be made about goods like clothes, personal papers and children's toys. The court can order the police to accompany the person recovering property for everyone’s safety.

What happens to the defendant once the AVO is made?

When an AVO is made, the defendant does not get a criminal conviction or a criminal record. The details of the AVO are kept on a police database and the police will take any firearms in the defendant’s possession or control.

If the defendant has a firearms licence, the licence is automatically revoked (cancelled) for a period of 10 years. If the Order is revoked (cancelled), the defendant can get their firearms licence back only if they are considered to be a fit and proper person to have a firearms licence.

What happens if the AVO is breached?

An AVO is a court order. If the defendant breaches (breaks) a condition of the AVO, they may be charged with a criminal offence.

You should keep a copy of your AVO on you at all times and call the police if the defendant breaches any of the conditions listed on it.

How long does an AVO last?

Your AVO will last for a certain period of time that is specified on the Order.

The application form for an AVO allows you (the applicant) to tell the court how long you would like the AVO to last and your reasons why. The court will decide how long an AVO will last based on what is necessary to ensure your safety and protection.

If the court does not specify a period, the default period of time that an AVO lasts is:

  • two years if the defendant is 18 years or older when the application is made; or
  • one year if the defendant is younger than 18 years when the application is made.

For more information read the ADVOs Changes to Duration factsheet (PDF, 157.8 KB) about changes to ADVO durations that came into effect on 28 March 2020.

Before the AVO period ends, you can apply for an extension of the Order, as long as you still have a reasonable fear of the defendant.

Can you apply to change the conditions on an AVO?

Yes. If there is a change of circumstances, you can apply to the Local Court or the police to have the Order changed or cancelled. However, only the police can apply to change or cancel an Order if children are named on it.

Exclusion orders in Apprehended Violence Orders (AVO)

An exclusion order allows you to remain at home as part of an AVO, and excludes, or removes, the violent person. An exclusion order is one of the conditions which may be applied for in an AVO. It can prohibit the violent person from living in the home of the protected person.

Is it something for me?

Before applying for an exclusion order, there are a number of questions you should be asking yourself:

  1. Would you prefer to stay at home and have the violent person leave?
  2. Will you be, and feel, safe if you stay at home?
  3. Will you be fearful because the defendant knows where you are living?
  4. Do you have children, and would they be better off remaining at home with you?
  5. Can you afford to pay the housing costs?

How do I get an exclusion order?

A Magistrate can make an exclusion order if it is requested in the application for an AVO. It’s important to discuss this option with a lawyer, court support worker or police officer when applying for an AVO. Sometimes it’s best to get an exclusion order as part of a Provisional Order, which police can apply for following a violent incident.

What's relevant to the Court in making an exclusion order?

The Court considers a number of things in deciding whether or not to make an exclusion order. These are:

  1. The safety and protection of the protected person and any children living at home, if such an order is not made.
  2. Any hardship that may be caused by making or not making the order, particularly to the protected person and any children.
  3. The accommodation needs of all relevant parties, particularly the protected person and any children.
  4. Any other relevant matter. Remember to report any breaches of the exclusion order to the police.

Apprehended Violence Order protections for victim-survivors with pets

Domestic and family violence perpetrators can harm, or threaten to harm, animals to intimidate and control victim-survivors. The tactic is used to manipulate victim-survivors during the relationship and after separation as punishment for leaving.

The NSW Government introduced reforms to recognise and better protect against domestic and family violence involving pets which commenced in March 2021. These reforms included:

  • Changing the definition of intimidation in the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 (NSW) to explicitly include harm to, or harm threatened to, the victim-survivor’s pets as a form of intimidation. The victim-survivor’s pets could be animals belonging to the victim-survivor or animals in the victim-survivor’s possession. These protections also extend to animals belonging to or in the possession of a person with whom the victim-survivor is in a relationship. Intimidation is a crime with a maximum penalty of imprisonment for five years.
  • All AVOs have mandatory conditions that are included as part of all AVOs. The mandatory conditions that apply to all AVOs now explicitly state that harm to animals belonging to, or in the possession of the victim-survivor (or a person with whom they are in a domestic relationship) is prohibited.
  • All AVOs also contain a prohibition on the defendant stalking, harassing or intimidating the protected person. Changes to the definition of intimidation will therefore also enhance protection against harm to animals under an AVO. Breaching an AVO is a crime with a maximum penalty of imprisonment for two years.
Last updated:

17 May 2024