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What happens at a contested hearing?

If the respondent opposes the domestic violence order, or if you cannot agree about the order’s conditions at the mention, you will be given a new court date for a contested hearing.

If your application is listed for a contested hearing, get legal advice as soon as possible.

A contested hearing allows the magistrate to hear your evidence about why you need a domestic violence order and the respondent’s evidence about why a domestic violence order should not be made.

In most courts, you and the respondent may have to give all your evidence, and the evidence of your witnesses, in affidavits (sworn statements) and exchange these before the contested hearing. This includes supporting evidence like photographs, medical certificates and emails.

It is important you file your affidavits at the court registry and then arrange service of a copy of the affidavits to the respondent by the dates the court has set.

Service is the legal term used to describe giving or delivering court documents to another person in a way that satisfies the court that the person has received them. This is particularly important if the person served does not attend court. If the court is satisfied the person has received the court documents, the case may proceed without that person being present and orders may be made.

Service can be by:

  • hand — you may arrange for a process server (for a fee) or any other person over 18 to hand deliver the documents for you; process servers are listed in the Yellow Pages
  • registered post — do not do this unless you are confident the other person will sign for the documents
  • fax or email — you can do this if the person has given a fax number or email address to the court
  • service on a lawyer — a document is taken to be served on a person if they have a lawyer representing them and the lawyer has agreed, in writing, to accept service of the document for that person
  • any other way approved by the court.

Courts across Queensland have different practices for service—check with the court registry. Get legal advice.

If you do not serve the respondent, your application could be dismissed or you may not be allowed to have the court consider your evidence.

At the hearing, you and any witnesses will have to go to court in person and answer any questions from the magistrate and respondent. If the respondent does not have a lawyer, you can ask the magistrate to not let the respondent cross examine you (ask you questions in court) as it may cause you emotional harm or distress. In these circumstances the magistrate may ask you the respondent’s questions or allow you to be asked questions by video link or from behind a screen.

Who will represent me?

If you cannot afford a private lawyer you should apply for a Legal Aid Queensland lawyer to represent you. If the police are making the application, the police prosecutor will represent you when a contested hearing date is set. You can also represent yourself. For more information about representing yourself at your hearing, see the Representing yourself at your domestic violence application hearing factsheet on the Legal Aid Queensland website.

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

No. The contested hearing will be held in a closed court, which means the public cannot 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 contested 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 cannot give evidence in a domestic violence court unless the magistrate gives them permission to. If you want a child to give evidence before the court, you should get legal advice.

You should also bring any other supporting evidence to the contested hearing. Supporting evidence like photographs of your injuries, medical reports from the doctor who treated you, text messages and phone logs 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 in the court. You will need to 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 and affidavit, so only explain any matters the magistrate asks you about. If you do not 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 given by you, the respondent and any witnesses, the magistrate will decide whether to give you the domestic violence order you have applied for. The magistrate must be sure:

  • you and the respondent were in a relevant relationship
  • the respondent did commit an act of 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, they may be charged with a criminal offence.

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

If you have hired a private lawyer, you will usually have to pay for the cost of your own legal representation. There are no costs if a police prosecutor represents you at court. You can apply for a Legal Aid Queensland lawyer if the police prosecutor cannot represent you—depending on your financial circumstances, you may have to make a contribution towards your legal aid costs.

The magistrate may make you pay the respondent’s court costs if they decide to dismiss your application because they believe it is deliberately false, frivolous, vexatious or malicious.

What if I disagree with the magistrate’s decision?

If you disagree with the magistrate’s decision, you can appeal it. You need to file the appeal in the District Court within 28 days from the date the magistrate made the decision about the domestic violence order.

Will the court proceedings be made public?

No. A person is not allowed to publish any information said in a domestic violence court or any information that identifies the applicant, respondent, children or witnesses involved in a domestic violence court proceeding. If they do this, the magistrate can issue a fine.

Information can only be published if the magistrate allows it, or the applicant and respondent agree to it being published, or the publication is for law reporting or research purposes.

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Last updated 7 April 2021

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