Domestic violence orders are becoming increasingly more common within Queensland. These orders can appear to be incredibly confusing to respondents, who may have an order taken out against them privately or by police. But what happens when you don’t want an order to be put in place? Generally speaking, you have four choices when faced with an application for a domestic violence order:-
- Consent to the order;
- Consent to the order on a ‘without admissions’ basis;
- Challenge the order and proceed to a domestic violence trial;
- Negotiate an Undertaking.
It can be a long and difficult road towards contesting a domestic violence order and there is a trend towards respondents simply consenting to the order because they cannot financially or emotionally afford to contest it, despite the fact the disagree with the allegations. This feeling of hopelessness coupled with the dangerous perception in courts that it is no ‘big deal’ to consent to a domestic violence order on a ‘without admissions’ basis presents a real concern. The reality is that having a domestic violence against you can and does have serious consequences and parties need to consider this before consenting to any order. Ask yourself would you consent to an order if you knew of all the consequences? First, what is meant by consenting on a without admission basis? When a party consents to an order on a ‘without admissions’ basis, it means the person agrees to having an order be put in place but does not admit or agree that domestic violence took place. By consenting to an order, parties can avoid lengthy, expensive and traumatic court proceedings. This means that the court will impose a domestic violence order which is usually in place for a five years. So, I’m thinking of consenting. What are the consequences? Consenting to a domestic violence order can have implications for those involved in family law proceedings or child protection matters and can prevent someone from retaining their security or weapons licence (particularly relevant for police and defence force personnel). Parties need to carefully consider how an order may impact them. Common consequences of having a domestic violence order naming you as a respondent can include having to disclosure the order to a professional body (for example Blue Card authorities), negative impacts in a family law matter or in child protection proceedings with the opposing party attempting to use the order against you. Then there is the potential consequences of breaching the order. It is important to remember that whilst domestic violence orders are civil orders, if the order is breached there are serious and real consequences in the criminal law jurisdiction. The consequences of breaching an order can include serious fines, imprisonment and criminal convictions. Given how serious the public and the courts view instances of domestic violence, there is a real risk of actual imprisonment with any breach. Further, if a party contests a breach offence this can result in a significant number of court appearances, stress and expense. Conclusion When faced with an application for domestic violence order, it is always advisable to get independent legal advice before consenting on a ‘without admissions’ basis. You should also sleep on your decision and reflect on the advice provided to you. Don’t be afraid to ask your lawyer of practical consequences that may arise as potential consequences. As with any legal matter, you need to carefully consider the consequences and how they would impact you. Consenting to an order on a ‘without admissions’ basis may be an easy option, but it may not be the right option for you.