Intervention Orders are quite common in high-conflict situations like relationship breakdowns, and so they are something we deal with frequently in our family law practice. Despite how often they come up, people often misunderstand how they work. This is a real problem because there are serious, criminal consequences for breaches of Intervention Orders.
Some of the misunderstandings come from the fact that different Intervention Orders can have quite different conditions; there is no one-size-fits-all Intervention Order (this is also why you should not assume that examples in this article apply to your case, because each Intervention Order is different).
One thing that applies to all Intervention Orders, however, is that they can be enforced extremely strictly, and so they need to be taken literally and seriously. This sounds basic, but a failure to understand the terms of an Intervention Order causes a lot of the breaches we deal with. The problem with a breach of an Intervention Order is this is treated as a criminal law issue. This could result in a criminal conviction against you which is placed on your Police record and in some situations could lead to a prison sentence. We discuss three of the most common traps below:
One of the most common issues is when communication might be allowed about a particular topic, but not others.
For example, many Intervention Orders stated that the person the Order is made against, cannot contact or communicate with the person protected by the Order, except to discuss arrangements for children.
In those cases, often a party will start a conversation (whether on the phone, by email, on social media or by text message) about their children’s arrangements, but then move on to discuss other things (as they did throughout their relationship).
In that example, for as long as the discussion is only about children’s arrangements it is not a breach because it is covered by the exception (as long as the order specifically states that they can discuss arrangements about the children). Once the conversation moves to other issues, such as child support, assets owned by the parties or a property settlement, or anything else, it immediately becomes a breach, because it’s not covered by the exception. Potentially the person who has the Order can make a complaint to the Police, which could result in the person who has the Order against them been charged by the Police.
This often catches people by surprise, because it can feel like child support and similar topics affect the children, but the safest rule of thumb is that unless you’re passing on information about the children or planning when the children are going to spend time with people, it probably isn’t covered by the exception.
This is also true even if it is the protected person that raises the issue; if he or she raises an issue not covered by an exception, you just need to ignore those comments or messages and either keep talking about the children’s arrangements or end the conversation.
What if the protected person agrees?
Another thing people often do not understand is that an activity can be a breach of an Intervention Order even if it seems to be started, allowed, or agreed to by the protected person.
An extreme example of this is that occasionally we come across cases where a couple has broken up and an Intervention Order has been made, but then the couple gets back together again. Unless the Intervention Order had expired or was discharged, it is still in force, and so when the parties get back together it tends to involve a lot of breaches of the Intervention Order as they live together.
Although neither party is likely to report the breaches while things are friendly, if the relationship breaks down again, the protected person can easily report the breaches, and the fact that the parties were back together is no defence to charges that the Intervention Order has been breached.
This also applies to much smaller things, like responding to messages, telephone calls or voicemails from a protected person or going to a protected person’s home or workplace to pick something up, even if they have agreed to it.
Asking other people to do things
Getting another person to do something which an Intervention Order stops you from doing yourself is another common issue. This sort of situation can arise when the person the order is made against has good motives and tries to get someone else involved to contact or give something to the protected person on their behalf.
For example, sometimes bills from the property that the parties used to live at together keep coming through to the person an Intervention Order is made against. If the Intervention Order stops that person from communicating directly with the protected person, the person the Intervention Order has been made against cannot send those bills straight to the protected person without breaching the Intervention Order.
What can catch people out is that there is generally another condition which says that the person the Intervention Order has been made against cannot get anyone else to do anything he or she is not allowed to do.
This means that if you would not be allowed to pass the bills on yourself, having someone else pass the bills on would still be a breach of the Intervention Order, even if it is done with the right motives.
People are also caught out in situations where the person who has the Order to protect them, gets a third party to provide information or documents to the person who has the Order against them. If the person with the Order against them sends a message back to the ‘protected person’ they can be in breach of the Order, and then charged.
There is generally an exception to this rule which lets you have your Lawyers communicate with the protected person for you.
The take-away point
Breaching an Intervention Order exposes you to criminal charges, and so it is not something you can afford to take a chance on – as well as the penalties which might be imposed, breaches of Intervention Orders can have serious impacts on your Family Law case, not to mention potential issues with any future employment and volunteering which might require police checks.
Therefore, the take-away point is: read the wording of your Intervention Order carefully and take it literally, so that you do not unintentionally breach it. If you can, get legal advice from a Lawyer who deals with Intervention Orders regularly so that you can be sure you understand it.
If you need help understanding an Intervention Order or applying for an Intervention Order, or if someone has applied for an Intervention Order against you, our Family Law team is ready and able to help – just give us a call on (03) 9629 9629 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.