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What happens at the first court appearance?

Your first court appearance is called a “mention”. A mention is a short court appearance where the magistrate will assess the situation and find out if the respondent agrees or disagrees with your application for a domestic violence order. You will not need to give evidence or bring any of your witnesses to the first court appearance.

If the respondent does not agree with your application for a domestic violence order, a date will be given for a contested hearing – which is where both you and the respondent and any relevant witnesses will have to tell your story and possibly be cross-examined (asked questions about your story).

If the respondent has not been served with the documents before the first court appearance, the magistrate will adjourn the matter to a later date, so the respondent can be served with the documents.

If you think you will be in danger during that time, ask the magistrate to give you a temporary protection order.

What happens if I don’t arrive on time or don’t turn up for court?

If you do not arrive at court at the required time your application could be dismissed.

Who’s who in the courtroom?

  1. Magistrate — hears the application and decides whether to make the domestic violence order.
  2. Depositions clerk — assists the magistrate and records proceedings.
  3. Police prosecutor — represents you if it is a police application.
  4. Lawyer — represents parties to a domestic violence order application – from the application through to a hearing.
  5. Respondent — the person responding to the application for a domestic violence order.
  6. Witnesses — people who tell the court about something they heard or saw that is relevant to your application.

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When you go to court

  • Arrive at court 15 to 30 minutes early. 
  • If you don’t have a lawyer, the police prosecutor may represent you at a mention. Talk to them about your case.
  • If you’d like extra support you can speak to a domestic violence prevention worker who will be present at some courts. This person can go into court with you to support you. 
  • In some courts you can ask to see a domestic and family violence duty lawyer. This is a free services that provides you with legal advice about your court appearance.
  • You can bring your own support person to court. Your support person is not permitted to speak for you unless they have made the application on your behalf as an authorised person. 

Can I take my children to court with me?

There is no-one at the court who can look after your children. If you have to bring your children to court you should bring someone with you to supervise your children or try to leave them with a family member, friend or babysitter. It is not appropriate to bring children into the courtroom with you. You could also consider applying to Victim Assist Queensland on 1300 LINKUP (1300 546 587) as they may be able to offer financial support for childcare costs. Contact Victim Assist Queensland to see if you are eligible for assistance.

Will I have to see the respondent in the waiting room?

If you are worried about seeing the respondent in the waiting room, contact the court and speak to a domestic violence prevention worker, security officer or another staff member about the situation before you arrive. Some courts have a safe room available for women where they can wait safely before and after court. Some safe rooms have direct access in and out of the court room. You should not bring children into the safe room. At some courts you can enter and exit the building through the safe room.

If you have concerns about your safety while at court you can bring it to the attention of the court staff by completing the Domestic and Family Violence Safety form(PDF, 978KB). Court staff will give a copy of the form to the security officer, domestic violence prevention worker, registrar and any other relevant staff to arrange your safety at court.

What are the respondent’s options?

The respondent has a number of options when they receive their copy of the application for a domestic violence order.

The respondent can:

  • consent to an order being made. A consent order will only be made if the respondent says they agree with the order in person, through a solicitor or in writing. The respondent might agree to an order being made without admitting to the facts. This is called “consenting without admission”.
  • ask for the proceedings to be adjourned so they can get legal advice.
  • oppose the orders you are asking for. If this happens, the court will give you a hearing date.
  • do nothing (and not attend court).

If the respondent agrees to the orders you want, an order can be made by consent when your application goes before the magistrate. The order will usually remain in force for five years, or longer if there are special reasons.

If the respondent asks to adjourn your application, the magistrate will normally adjourn it for four weeks to allow the respondent time to get legal advice before the next court appearance. Ask the magistrate to issue a temporary protection order to protect you until a further order is made or until the next hearing.

What happens if the respondent applies for a domestic violence order against me?

This situation is called a “cross application” — where both parties apply for domestic violence orders against each other.

If the magistrate believes the application to be vexatious, or without merit, they might dismiss it. It is important to get legal advice if you are faced with a cross application. The police prosecutor will usually only represent you for the initial application for a domestic violence order.

If the respondent opposes your application, there will be a contested hearing at a later date. The magistrate may transfer the applications so they are heard together and the court will consider who is most in need of protection. If this happens, you should get representation either by the police prosecutor (if the police are making the application), a private solicitor or a Legal Aid Queensland solicitor. You should organise this well before the hearing.

What happens if the respondent doesn’t come to court?

If the respondent does not come to court at the required time the magistrate could:

  • adjourn the hearing
  • make the orders you asked for in your application
  • issue a warrant.

If the respondent does not appear in court, and the police can prove your application was served on them, the magistrate can make the orders you asked for in your application. If the magistrate thinks the orders you want are not appropriate, other orders may be made.

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