Getting an AVO

The first step in the AVO process is to make an application. The person making an AVO application is called the ‘applicant’. The person to be protected by the AVO is known as the ‘protected person’.

A protected person can seek an AVO in two ways:

  • by going to their local police station and asking the police to make an application. This is known as a ‘police application’ and the police officer is the applicant.
  • by going to their closest Local Court and making an application through the registrar. This is known as a ‘private application’ and the protected person is the applicant. Only a person 16 years or over can make a private application.

Comparing police and private applications

There are some important differences between private and police applications.

Police applicationsPrivate applications
Police officer is the applicantProtected person is the applicant
Police have a duty to apply for an ADVO in certain circumstancesRegistrar must accept the application for an ADVO
Often police will not initiate APVO applicationsRegistrar may refuse to issue an APVO application
Only police can apply for urgent provisional AVOsIndividual cannot seek a provisional order through the court
Only police can apply for an AVO on behalf of a person under 16 years oldA young person under 16 years old cannot make a private application
Police prosecutor appears in court on behalf of protected personApplicant has to represent themself in court or find a solicitor (help available from Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service (WDVCAS)

Legal aid may be available for male or female applicants in ADVO matters provided the person satisfies a means test based on their income and assets. Flatmates are excluded from the definition of ‘domestic relationship’ for the purpose of a grant of legal aid.

ADVO defendants who are in fact the victim of domestic violence by the ‘protected person’ may be eligible for a grant of legal aid for an AVO hearing and associated preparation provided he or she meets the means test. For all other AVO defendants, legal aid is not available unless the defendant can show exceptional circumstances. The Legal Aid NSW office should be contacted through LawAccess for confirmation of the current legal aid policy (which changes from time to time) and application form.

Women’s Legal Services NSW can also help with information on the availability of legal representation and can refer women to private solicitors who may be able to apply for legal aid on their behalf. It is advisable to apply for legal aid before the first court date.