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What happens at the hearing?

The hearing is a day in court when a magistrate listens to why you need a domestic violence order and also listens to the respondent’s side of the story. In some courts, you and the respondent may be required to document all of your evidence in an affidavit (a sworn statement) and exchange these before the hearing. This would include the evidence from any of your witnesses and supporting evidence such as photographs and emails. You and any witnesses will have to attend court in person and answer any questions from the magistrate and respondent. It is important you make sure you file and serve these documents with the court by the dates ordered otherwise your application could be dismissed or you may not be allowed to have the court consider your evidence.

If the respondent does not have a lawyer you can ask the court that the respondent not be permitted to cross examine you on the grounds it would cause you emotional harm or distress. In some courts you can also ask for your evidence to be provided by video link or from behind a screen.

Who will represent me?

If you cannot afford a lawyer you should apply for legal aid. If the police are making the application, the police prosecutor will represent you as soon as a hearing date is set. In some courts there is a domestic violence prevention program that may be able to help you prepare your application and support you in court. Alternatively, a domestic violence service in your area may be available to support you. You can also represent yourself.

Will the public be allowed in the courtroom for the hearing?

No. The hearing will be held in a closed court, which means the public are not allowed to watch or listen. 

Should I bring my witnesses to the hearing?

Yes. You should bring any witnesses who saw or heard incidents of domestic violence to the hearing. They will need to answer questions about their evidence in person. Ask your witnesses to write down what they saw or heard as soon as possible after the events and to bring these notes with them to court. Children can not give evidence in a domestic violence proceeding, unless they are given permission to do so by the court.

You should also bring any other supporting evidence to the hearing. Photographs of your injuries and medical reports from the doctor who treated you will help the magistrate decide whether to make the domestic violence order.

Will I have to give evidence at the hearing?

Yes. You and your witnesses will give evidence before the court. You will tell the magistrate what happened to make you apply for a domestic violence order. Most of the details should have been included in your application, so only explain any matters the magistrate does not understand. If you don’t have a lawyer, the magistrate will guide you through the evidence process. After you have given evidence, you will be told to call your witnesses into court. Ask them to tell the magistrate what they saw or heard.

When you give evidence, the respondent or their lawyer will ask you questions about your evidence. When the respondent gives evidence you or your lawyer will be able to do the same. This is called cross-examination. Witnesses will also be cross-examined. The respondent will present their case in the same way.

After listening to the evidence provided by you and the respondent, the magistrate will decide whether to give you the orders you have requested. The magistrate must be sure the respondent did commit domestic violence and it is necessary or desirable for you to have a domestic violence order.

Will the respondent get a criminal record if the magistrate makes a domestic violence order?

No. The domestic violence order does not result in a criminal record for the respondent. If the respondent breaches the domestic violence order it may result in criminal charges.

Are there any costs involved in getting a domestic violence order?

If you have hired your own lawyer you will usually have to pay for the cost of your own legal representation. There are usually no costs if a police prosecutor or a legal aid lawyer represents you.

Remember: The court may make you pay the respondent’s court costs if the court decides to dismiss your application on the grounds that it’s deliberately false, frivolous, vexatious or malicious.

Can I appeal the court’s decision?

Yes. If you disagree with the magistrate’s decision you can appeal it. You have 28 days from the date the magistrate made the decision to lodge an appeal. Your appeal is made to the district court.You should get legal advice if you want to appeal because the procedures are complex.

Will the court proceedings be published?

No. A person is not allowed to publish any information said in court or any information that identifies the parties, children or witnesses involved in a domestic violence court proceeding. If they do this an individual may be fined up to $1100 or sentenced to two years jail and a corporation could be fined up to $11,000.

Information can only be published if the court allows it, the parties consent to it being published or the publication is for law reporting or research purposes.

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