Family violence intervention orders in Victoria – Counselling orders
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Male Respondents to Family Violence Intervention Orders must be
aware that at some Courts Magistrates have the power to make a
Counselling Order compelling a Respondent to participate in a
Men’s Behaviour Change Program.
My ex-girlfriend took out an Intervention Order
against me. It doesn’t bother me – I don’t want to
see her anyway. We were only together for about five months. I went
to Court and consented to the Order without agreeing with anything
that she said about me, but then the Magistrate said I had to do
some kind of counselling or something – and I haven’t
even done anything wrong.
A Counselling Order can be made whether or not the Respondent
admits family violence. Failure to comply with an Order is a
criminal offence and can result in a criminal record.
A Respondent will be eligible for assessment for a Counselling
Order if they are the husband or former husband, male partner or
former partner, boyfriend or former boyfriend of a woman protected
by an Intervention Order. They must also reside in a postcode that
allows the making of the Order.
My wife and I had been having trouble for years,
then all of a sudden she took out an Intervention Order against me
and I was out of the house. It was a shock, but I guess I know
it’s over. My lawyer negotiated the terms of a Final Order for
me and I agreed to it. The Magistrate said I had to do a Men’s
Behaviour Change Program as well. I’ve heard a bit about those
programs. Maybe it will help me with getting to see the kids
Before a Counselling Order can be made, a Magistrate must order
an eligibility assessment with a Respondent Support Worker. A
written report is then provided to the Magistrate. Broadly
speaking, a Respondent will be assessed as eligible for a
Counselling Order unless they have a physical or mental impediment
that prevents them from participating in counselling. Employment
commitments, for example, will not mean a Respondent is
It is important for Respondents to be aware that they can be
assessed as eligible for a Counselling Order even in circumstances
where they deny family violence and the allegations contained in
the Application are untested before the Court.
If assessed as eligible, a Counselling Order will be made.
If a Respondent fails to attend the eligibility assessment, or
fails to attend a counselling session (regardless of how many
appointments they have attended), they will be charged with
contravening the Order. The consequences of a finding of guilt for
a criminal offence can be far reaching and a Respondent should seek
legal advice if charged with contravening a Counselling Order.
In limited circumstances a Respondent can apply for a
Counselling Order to be varied or revoked. In order to be
successful, it must be demonstrated to the Court that there is no
approved Program that the Respondent can reasonably and practically
attend, that there has been a change in circumstances that affects
a Respondent’s ability to participate in counselling, or that
the Order is no longer appropriate.
Counselling Orders can be made at the Magistrates’ Court in
Heidelberg, Ballarat, Frankston and Moorabbin. The aim of the power
to compel a male Respondent to participate in a Men’s Behaviour
Change Program is to increase the Respondent’s accountability
for the violence the Respondent has used against a family member;
and to encourage the Respondent to change their behaviour. In
circumstances where a Respondent admits family violence, or where
the Court has made a finding of family violence against a
Respondent following a Contested Hearing, compelling participation
in a Program may be considered entirely appropriate.
Respondents must be aware however that men who do not admit
family violence, but who do not wish to contest the making of a
Final Family Violence Intervention Order, can also be compelled to
participate in a Men’s Change Behaviour Program.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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