Understanding the Process in Applying for Protection Orders ( AVO, IVO, IPO SPO )

Some relationships involve behaviour that is damaging to the other partner and, in some cases, may be criminal.

Healthy relationships are based on equality and respect between partners.

Anything less is disrespectful and given the negative impact it has on the other person, is classified as abusive and falls under the umbrella of domestic violence.

When one partner tries to control the other partner, it can be harmful to both parties. A control or power imbalance can take many forms, including intimidation, threats, stalking or physical and sexual abuse.

This usually results in one partner being frightened of the other, and feeling unsafe in the relationship.  Safety is a human need and requires the acknowledgement, attention and acceptance of people, situations and circusmtances within each others capacity. Deliberate and intentional behaviours on the spectrums of rage and neglect amount to abuse and violence and can have a devastating impact on the psychological and emotional state of a victim.


A civil protection order can be taken out by the Police, or the person in need of protection. 


To find out how to feel confident and make a report to the Police Click HERE.

In this post we are explaining the grounds, circumstances and process in applying for a protection order.

Definition: A protection order is a set of behaviours that are imposed on the perpetrator, defendant or respondent in a civil claim to stop harassment, intimidation, threats, stalking or actions that otherwise interfere with the life of the person in need of protection.

This could be relevant in a number of circumstances but it is more commonly used to to restrict the behaviour and proximinity of those who are or have been in a relationship where contextual conflict is causing harm.

This harm is usually in the form of emotional and psychological destress (more commonly known as abuse or controlling behaviour).

When making an application you need to consider the outcome you are seeking and the behaviour of the other person that is impacting on you and what it will take to stop that.

It could be distance,

no contact after drinking or taking drugs,

not approaching home or workplace or

seeking consent before attending your home.

It could be no phone or texts, communication only through email.

It could be not to harass you about certain things or damage property.

It could be not to contact friends or family.

It could be complete exclusion from the house where you are both living.

These protective measures are designed to reduce the incidence and the opportunity for conflict.

I am sure you have  tried  to enforce these protective measures through other means and attempted to find a resolution, but sometimes just telling, asking or requesting that someone do something or not do something as it is impacting on your wellbeing isn’t enough.

Applying to a court is often a last resort, but it can also be the necessary protection that creates distance that allows you time and space to consider the issues, concerns, problems and relationship difficulties you are having.

The most common reasons for a protection order is usually associated with ongoing and repeated disrespectful behaviour that causes distress or harm.

Whilst you may have conflict, the escalation of this conflict doesn’t help to resolve the problem or find a solution.  The legal arena was designed to engage representation due to the emotional stress conflict causes.  So as a self represented applicant there are a few things you need to understand when navigating an application for protection.



  1. There is a history.
  2. There is a version of the story and facts
  3. There are contributing and influencing factors and circumstances
  4. There is an impact and harm caused.

These four pillars of information is the evidence you will need to provide to demonstrate why you need to be protected from the person who is causing you harm.

There are rules regarding the submission of evidence, and whilst there are facts, the impact is an important and relevant piece of evidence that can only be given by you.  It will be the emotional and psycological distress caused during interactions or attempts to have contact with the person you alledge is being abusive.

A civil claim is not a win or loose scenario it is an application that considers the protection strategies needed by a person who is vulnerable, being harassed or stalked, has felt intimidated by the aggression of the other person or has had their life impacted such as unable to carry out work or parent as they would normally.

Before starting any court proceedings you should:

If you cannot find another option to resolve your matter, you need to know which court is the right place to start a claim, which forms to use and the fees that apply.

For more information:

If you represent yourself, do some legal research before starting court proceedings to understand the laws and rules that apply to civil matters.

When both parties appear in an AVO application on the first occasion and there are no related charges the following approach is suggested.

Does  the applicant still seek the order? as some days or weeks may have passed and issues and concerns addressed.

Where the defendant is unrepresented, inform that person of the options available.


These are:

  • an adjournment for legal advice, if required
  • consent to an order, without admitting any conduct in the application
  • disputing the order.

I have no doubt that if you are in court you have spent a considerable amount of time trying to resolve the issues, enforce boundaries and request respectful behaviour and civil conversations.

The court can be an intimidating place, but understand they are their to help you and if you have exhausted other avenues or things have escalated, the court is obliged to find a solution for you – which means there are many avenues to resolve what is happening and minimise the harm being caused.

If time is spent clearly explaining these choices to the  person, the explanation may save time and costs with other parties .  Often being summons to court ‘offends’ the other person and they are willing to continue with the conflict, so where the application is for an APVO, s 21 (referral to mediation) should be considered before listing the matter for hearing.

If mediation has failed and the parties are too far apart to make an agreement, this legal process is often the only one you have available. It is stressful, distressing and if there are no other means to stop the abusive behaviour and your fear that it will continue without such protection then follow the process through as it will act as a natural consequence for the behaviour you are being subjected to.

I can tell you that most of the behaviour described in these applications amounts to disrespect and offensive conduct (in a public place) which at minimum are a form of harassment and intimidation which are criminal offences.  As is stalking. Whilst being disrespectful is not an ‘offence’, you are not obliged to tolerate this behaviour or suffer as a consequence.

Given that you have told someone to leave you alone, to stop speaking to you about certain things, stop threatening and intimidating you with language and actions that frighten you and make you feel unsafe – if the behaviour continues it is deemed as unacceptable and is a foreseeable behaviour that will have a negative impact.

So what’s “offensive” at law? For your conduct or language to be offensive at law it must, be calculated to wound the feelings, arouse anger or resentment or disgust or outrage in the mind of a reasonable person. Your conduct must also be placed in the context of all the surrounding circumstances.  – Section 4 of the Summary Offences Act 1988 

The Evidence and proof needed in civil proceedings

To successfully pursue your case in court it is necessary to have evidence to back up your claim.

You can’t just think you have a case, you must be able to prove it.

Evidence can take several forms such as documents, sound and video recordings and witness statements (written statements about what the witness saw or heard). Evidence can also be given through oral statements (testimony) made at court by witnesses.

There are a number of rules of evidence which have been established to ensure fairness in the trial process and to ensure that the best evidence is admitted.

For example:

In Queensland, the rules of evidence are governed by the Evidence Act 1977 (Qld).

You should also have regard to any procedural rules under the Uniform Civil Procedure Act 1999 (Qld).

The facts in issue

Evidence is used to prove the “facts in issue” in a court proceeding. The facts in issue are the things you will need to prove in order for your case to succeed.

This will depend upon the cause of action or legal basis which entitles you to commence legal proceedings. For example:

In a case of negligence, a person must show that the other party owed them a duty of care, that this duty was breached and that the person suffered damage as a result.

A person claiming breach of contract must first show the existence of a contract, namely:

  • That there was an agreement between the parties,
  • That the parties intended to create a legal relationship and;
  • That consideration (that is, something of value) was provided as part of the bargain.

Admissibility and relevance

Evidence will only be admissible (allowed into court) if it is relevant. Evidence will be relevant where its existence tends to indicate that one of the facts in issue is more or less likely. Basically, the court will ask whether the evidence you are trying to introduce would help to decide the issue(s) before it. For example, in proving a breach of duty in a negligence claim, evidence about current financial hardship is unlikely to be relevant.

Evidence can either be:

  • directly relevant, where it includes an observation, perception or description of a fact in issue; or
  • circumstantially relevant, where the Judge or jury can use it to draw an inference which goes towards proving a fact in issue. Things like a person’s past habits or the existence of a motive can often be used as circumstantial evidence.

Circumstantial evidence can sometimes be very persuasive. For example, in a case of personal injury arising out of a machinery malfunction, the fact that an employer had been seen inspecting the machine the previous day might be used by a court to infer that they were aware that it was not working properly.

Exclusion of evidence (“exclusionary rules”)

While generally speaking, evidence that is relevant will be admissible, there are a number of exclusionary rules that may prevent evidence (however relevant) from being admitted by a court.

If a judge decides in their discretion that the evidence is outside the rules, it will be held to be inadmissible and cannot be relied upon to prove the fact in issue.

Whether one of these exclusionary rules applies in your case will be decided by the judge. If the trial involves a jury, they will be sent from the court to allow the matter to be determined in their absence.


Probably the most important of the exclusionary rules is known as the rule against hearsay.

Evidence that amounts to hearsay will not be admitted.

Basically, this means that a person (person A) cannot give evidence of something another person (person B) said in an effort to prove that what was said by that person (person B) was true.

For example, if Karen tells Molly that she had seen a third person, Susan, threaten someone the previous day, Molly would not, as a general rule, be able to give evidence of Karen’s statement at Susan’s hearing. Karen herself would have to be called to give the evidence of what she saw.

The hearsay rule applies not only to verbal statements, but also the contents of documents and non-verbal communication.

There are also several exceptions to the general rule. A statement, for example, which is made at the same time as the central event, will not be subject to the rule.

For example if Karen had heard the victim yell ‘no Susan!’ while they were being threatened, Karen would be able to give evidence of this fact.

The rule against hearsay will also not apply to statements which amount to a confession or admission. Accordingly, if Susan confessed her guilt to Molly she would be able to give evidence of this confession, even though she did not see her do the stabbing.

There are several other exceptions to the rule against hearsay.

Some of these are specific to information contained in documents. For further information on these exceptions consult the Evidence Act.

There are also many textbooks written on evidence law that may be of use.

Opinion & expert evidence

As stated above, when a person gives evidence it must normally be a direct account of what he/she actually saw or heard. A person’s interpretation or opinion will not usually be admitted as evidence.

There are some exceptions to this general position. Firstly, a person’s opinion will be admissible where it relates to a matter within a person’s usual experience. For example, a witness will ordinarily be able to give evidence in relation to the time an event occurred, the weather or the general state or condition of an object.

Secondly, a person may give evidence of their opinion where they are an expert on a matter which falls outside the range of an ordinary person’s experience. Expert evidence may include the testimony of doctors, scientists or other specialised professionals. If your matter is a civil trial, you will be free to call expert witnesses as you see fit. It is important, however, to make sure that the witness you select has appropriate qualifications in the area of interest. If they do not, the judge may refuse to hear their evidence or disregard it.

Burden and standard of proof

Generally speaking, the person who brings an action is said to bear the “onus” or “burden of proof”. Accordingly, if you are the plaintiff (the person who commences the proceedings) it will be up to you to introduce evidence that supports your case. If you fail to do so, the case will be lost.

For a person to succeed in a court case, they must introduce evidence which is sufficiently persuasive: it is not enough simply to have more evidence than the other party. The level of evidence required in a particular case is known as the ‘standard of proof’.

In civil cases, the required standard of proof is known as the “balance of probabilities”. In simple terms, the balance of probabilities will be met if you can successfully establish that

‘the claim you are making is more probable than not.’


This can be contrasted with the standard of proof in criminal cases, which is “beyond reasonable doubt”.

This means that the prosecution must bring evidence of such a standard that there would be no reasonable doubt in the mind of a reasonable person that the accused is guilty.

Presenting your evidence

There are many different types of evidence that can be used in a court case. Whatever form your evidence takes, it will need to be introduced by a witness.

A witness is, essentially, someone who gives evidence in court. A witness may be called upon for a number of reasons – they may be asked to describe something they heard or saw or they will simply be required to verify that a particular document is authentic.

A witness can introduce evidence either orally, in court, or by providing a written statement called an affidavit or statutory declaration which can annex documentary evidence. However, even if a witness prepares an affidavit, the other party may still require them to appear in court if they wish to cross examine them. This will be likely if the evidence is particularly significant or contentious.

For example, say you have a photograph, text message, video or voice recording of the incident, to ensure fairness, it has to be proved where and when the photograph was taken, when the text was sent, the date of the video or voice recording and that it is the accused in the recording.  To ensure that it relates to the particular incident and wasn’t fabricated.

You could do this by calling as a witness the person who took the photograph, was present when the text was sent or provide the relevant source who will be prepared to stand up in court and swear on oath the circumstances of taking the photograph, recording the video or witnessing the text or audio.

He or she would then be cross-examined by the other party.

Some evidence may require an expert or third party to provide evidence of the impact, but in terms of emotional and psychological impact – your testimony will be the strongest version of that.

For the best evidence, you can also  call an independent witness who can testify that they saw the perpetrator’s behaviour at the time.  This can create some discomfort but the support is invaluable.

Written or documentary evidence – disclosure

Any relevant written or documentary evidence in the form of reports, photos or witness statements will normally be provided to the other side before the hearing.

The time for providing this evidence will usually be ordered by the court.

The process in which each party is required to make any relevant documents it has in its possession available to the other party is called “disclosure”.

Provide a cover sheet and label it with Annexure, A,B,C etc and then reference this is in your statement or affadvitt.

In certain circumstances, you can also compel non-parties to provide all documents relevant to the proceedings by issuing a Notice of Non-Party Disclosure.

Witness testimonies

Generally speaking, you are able to have anyone you wish appear as a witness in a court proceeding. You are also free to determine the order in which these witnesses appear. In calling witnesses, however, you will need to bear in mind the requirement that any evidence they present must be relevant. You should also note the possibility that certain evidence cannot be presented on account of various exclusionary rules discussed above.

All witnesses you intend to rely upon to give evidence should be served with a court document known as a subpoena. A subpoena compels the person named in the subpoena to appear in court. This document must be filed in the court registry before you give it to your proposed witness. If a person fails to comply with a subpoena they may be held in contempt of court (an offence for which they could be imprisoned).

You may also need to give each witness you call some conduct money to ensure they have sufficient funds to travel to court and appear in court when required.

Things to remember

In order to prove your case, your evidence has to be believed.

If you say one thing and the other party contradicts what you say, then the judge (or jury) has to decide which version he or she accepts.

The judge will make the decision on the basis of all of the evidence and his or her assessment of the character of each witness.

The solicitor or barrister for the other side will try to question the reliability or character of you and your witnesses and point out the negative aspects of your case.

In personal violence orders, the impact on the other persons behaviour on you can not be evaluated by the perpetrator so regardless of what they accuse you off, only you know how you manage pain, distress and psychological dysregulation.

Facts tell one part of the situation, your capacity and inability to function can only be described by you. Turning up to work does not make you effective. Going to a friends party does not mean that you weren’t upset.

IMPACT statements include the trauma of your experience.

Productivity is impacted and distractions or destructive behaviour is a by product.

Not all judges or magistrates are trauma informed and whilst they may attempt to dismiss your evidence, remain focused on expressing the way the other persons behaviour is impacting on your daily life, relationships and work capacity.  You may have withdrawn socially, engaged in alcohol, drugs or risk taking behaviour but generally you will feel low levels of mood or mania and this dysfunction will be impacting on your emotional state.

Judges are experienced in knowing what can and cannot be included in evidence. If the judge stops you from giving certain evidence, the judge is not trying to prevent you from making out your case, but rather letting you know that what you are saying will not help your case and it would be unfair to the other party to allow that evidence.

The judge would make a similar decision if the other party was trying to use such evidence. You have the right to argue your points, but at the same time it is important to listen to the judge. The judge knows the rules and the law and must ensure that both sides are treated fairly.

Why not observe a court case?

You may find that the best way to get to grips with the rules of evidence in a court is by observing them in practice. This will allow you to see how a barrister or solicitor questions a witness and give you an excellent insight into court processes generally.

Most court hearings are open to members of the public. You can find out where and when court hearings will be occurring by checking the daily law-lists.

The court schedule for any given day will be made available on this website by 6pm the previous evening.


The information in this resource is for general information purposes only and should not be relied on as legal advice, we would always recommend you seek independent or legal advice if you have any questions. If you need legal advice, please contact the Law based organisations that can  give advice to people.

The Argument

The argument is natural conflict in relationships that occurs when values clash.  Healthy relationships and mature attitudes are able to identify the real issue.

The top three arguments for intimate partners are

  • Finances

  • Parenting/Children

  • Sex/Intimacy/Infidelity

With this short list you can see how when Police are called to a domestic dispute they are not equipped, trained nor is it their job to resolve these issues in your relationship.

The role of a police officer is to prevent violence and protect life and property.  They might be concerned for your safety, may have genuine fears for your life and are obligated and legislated to investigate and implement safety measures, even if it is against your will.  Having seen the impact of abuse and violence, Police, Governments, DV and health professionals are right to have concerns. They can identify the signs and signals of potential and actual risk and it is based on this knowlegde and understanding that policy and legislation exists.

I used to tell victims that when the police of called we know it’s not the first time this has happened.  In a recent interview Amy Mouif shared how victims will experience abuse or violence up to 26 times before they report it to police.  This is a pattern of argument, conflict and escalating conflict where an unresolved issue has become the struggle of that relationship.

Couples can experience hundreds of disagreements, arguments and engage in abusive behaviours  within their relationship to establish a platform of equality, being heard or control.   But what I’ve come to see is the way couples fight with each other, establishes a pattern of how they deal with everything.

Every relationship has a power dynamic and an attitude that drives the beliefs, decision and emotions of each person.

The complex and complicated nature of relationships means that the power dynamic in each area of the relationship can cause friction and left unresolved causes tension and resentment.

Weapons of the relationship are money, children and sex.

In determining the risk of the argument, an investigation can unpack the concerns and dive deep to the issue.  It is commonly something within the aggressor (another hard task to identify by police).   The dissatisfaction in a relationship is increased by stress. A perceived loss of support in parenting, undermining of discipline, reckless spending, lies, omissions and behaviour that produces guilt and shame.  And this can be found in every household because it’s the place where you can be you, make mistakes, learn and breakdown with less judgement albiet high accountability to be the best version of you.

The classic undermining of a parent will show up when the other parent doesn’t want to take responsibility for the discipline or uphold the expectations of the family unit.

Mum will be get so angry if your room isn’t clean by the time she gets home.

I’ve had countless women share their experiences of unwanted sex because they felt obligated to please their husband or partner and as it would lessen the tension and aggression in the relationship.  Sex plays an intricate role in the intimacy experienced.  The lack of sex in a relationship is the absence of the connection. For this you’ll need to read so much more about how men and women see sex differently, the different kinds of sex and the chemical reaction it creates.

So in an overlapping issue, if one partner in a committed relationship engages in sex with some else, the betrayal is not the act of sex – but the lack of loyalty, trust and respect demonstrated by doing.   When partners find themselves in this situation the range of emotions is both intense and distressing.  The hurt felt by betrayal, lies and omissions is a direct insult on the capacity for the other partner to accept, understand or participate in a conversation that is well over due.   Cheating has long been a driver of resentment and revenge. It  breaks hearts and has the capacity to dissolve family units which defeats the purpose of the sneaking around.  The brave thing to do is stop, have that conversation just as you are with the person you intend to have sex with and consider the cost before you go there.   Why?  because the police can’t help you with this, a counselor can support you but can’t fix it and ultimately it’s about understanding what was lacking, missing or the capacity of the partner in his communication.

A new survey found 16 Percent of Couples Survive an Affair and up to 40% of marriage end because of one.   Despite the high percentage, most people — even those who stray — will say that cheating is wrong.

Often it’s the belief and social conditioning that our partner must provide everything for us.  It’s certainly true that we expect an intimate relationship to be sacred and exclusive.  More often low self-esteem can cause people to be very dependent on the attentions of their partner and  others—and in some cases, the attention of just one person isn’t enough.

It may also cause someone to feel insecure in their own relationship, so much so that they might cheat as a way of rejecting rather than being rejected, Guilt and shame for sex outside the marriage or partnership is normal and common, but the bigger issue and the microscope should be on why they didn’t feel they could discuss this insecurity with their partner.  It’s an opportunity for growth and to preserve the relationship.  Discussing this is a sign of respect for the other person. Not discussing it continues to be perceived as selfish, unthoughtful and mean.  Hurting someone you claim to love is a shame on you. Honesty is the ingredient for trust and without trust the relationship is over.

Finally money, this has been found to the root cause of many relationship breakdowns and is the driver of arguments inside and after it has disolved.  Money represents the time, energy and attention that partners put into a relationship. The paid and unpaid work, contributions and collaborations that go into building a family, home and lifestyle, and causing couples to ‘fight’.

This dynamic is difficult to identify as money is still a taboo subject, but I do know a healthy relationship can ‘talk’ about money, ‘discuss’ priorities and options and agree on fair and equitable outcomes for both.

So much has changed in 50 years and for the better, but money still provides a lot more value and self worth to many men who think their earnings are their own and that the support provided by a wife or stay at home mum or wife is of a non financial contribution.

Money drives abuse when it comes to power and control with decisions.  It’s an informal slavery that compels an obligation and combined with the power of sex I’ve had many women share they have felt like a prostitute. Harsh but true. The bedroom is a playground and a war zone.

This was one of the only studies I found on How Do Money, Sex and Stress Influence Marital Instability.

A study by Dew in 2009 found ‘A wives’ marital satisfaction and perception of how divorce would impact them financially fully mediated the relationship between assets and divorce (Dew, 2009) whilst further, financial satisfaction has been shown to be associated with marital satisfaction (Archuleta, Grable, & Britt, 2013).
“Finances, sex, and marital instability. Almost no studies have incorporated
finances, sex, and marital instability simultaneously. Those that do are often studies or reviews exploring the degree to which a variety of marital issues predict divorce. For example, Dew et al. (2012) found that among various topics  of conflict, financial and sexual conflict were two of the topics most predictive of divorce. No study has tested the relationships between financial and sexual stressors, resources, perceptions, and outcomes within marriage at the same time. This study is unique in incorporating both financial and
sexual variables in the same empirical model”

Worth a read – deep but offers a greater understanding of the stressors on relationships and how particular attitudes of entitlement develop.

Whether it’s saving, spending or investment – Money should never reflect the value of who you are.  Percentages are derived for a transactional purpose, but it doesn’t accurately reflect your contribution.

Without keeping the end goal in focus, partnerships and families loose sight of their why.   Why they are together.  If it’s not to add value to each others lives, to care and provide for each other, to support and strengthen them as well as receive the kindness, compassion and respect an intimate relationship can offer, then it’s time to go.  It’s simple and natural.  Life is short.

Incompatibility and irreconcilable differences is the distance between where your beliefs and thoughts intersect.  So if you don’t feel you are on the same page, if you are wanting to understand the discord, take action.

Hard conversations are worth the effort. Stay calm and express yourself respectfully.