A magistrate can order a respondent to a family violence intervention order to go to counselling for their violent behaviour. Learn more about who is eligible for counselling and what happens when a magistrate makes a counselling order.
About family violence counselling orders
A counselling order is a type of family violence court order that a Specialist Family Violence Court magistrate can make.
A magistrate can order a respondent to a family violence intervention order (FVIO) to go to court-approved counselling for their violent behaviour.
Counselling provides respondents with specialist support to help them take responsibility for their use of violence and make positive change to their behaviour.
What is court-approved counselling?
A counselling order will direct a respondent to go to a specific counselling program with an approved provider.
The current, court approved counselling program is the men's behaviour change program.
Men's behaviour change programs provide group based-counselling for men who have used violence against their family.
The program includes 20 group-counselling sessions that the respondent completes over several months. The program also offers support and safety planning for the people affected by the respondent’s violence.
Who is eligible for counselling?
A respondent may be eligible for the men’s behaviour change program if their matter has been heard at a Specialist Family Violence Court, and they are:
- the respondent to a final family violence intervention order
- 18 years or older, and
- the current or former intimate partner of a female affected family member named on a final family violence intervention order.
How is a counselling order made?
Assessing if a respondent is eligible for counselling
A magistrate can make a counselling order after making a final FVIO.
First, the magistrate must check if a respondent is suitable for counselling. The court calls this an eligibility assessment.
The magistrate will order the respondent to go to an eligibility assessment interview with a family violence respondent practitioner.
The court will give the respondent a Notice to Respondent to Attend Eligibility Assessment that will tell the respondent
· when and where to attend the interview, and
· when to return to court for the magistrate’s decision.
The respondent must go to the interview. The police can charge the respondent with an offence if they do not attend.
The eligibility assessment interview can be online or in-person. It will usually take place on the same day that the magistrate makes the order.
At the interview, the family violence practitioner will ask the respondent personal questions to check if they are suitable for counselling. After the interview, the practitioner will give a report to the magistrate that will say whether the respondent is eligible for counselling.
The court will also give the respondent a copy of the report.
Making a counselling order
After the eligibility assessment interview, the respondent will return to the courtroom for the magistrate’s decision.
If the respondent is eligible for counselling, the magistrate will make a counselling order.
The court will serve the respondent with a Notice to the Respondent to Attend Counselling. The notice will tell the respondent
· why the magistrate has ordered counselling, and
· what they must do next.
The magistrate can still make a counselling order if the respondent does not return to the courtroom.
Obeying the counselling order
The respondent must do what it says in the Notice to Respondent to Attend Counselling.
This includes attending all counselling sessions
· included on the notice and
· scheduled by the counselling provider.
The police can charge the respondent with a criminal offence if they do not attend counselling.
Go to the intervention order breaches page for more information on penalties.
Support for respondents during counselling
Counselling is an opportunity for a respondent to make positive, lasting changes to their behaviour. The counselling provider and the court’s family violence respondent practitioner can support the respondent while they complete counselling and help them comply with the counselling order.
Changing a counselling order
The respondent can ask the court to change a counselling order (vary) or cancel a counselling order (revoke) if:
· their personal situation has changed, and
· those changes mean they cannot complete counselling.
A magistrate can vary or revoke a counselling order in limited circumstances. The court recommends that a respondent talks to the counselling provider about changing a counselling order.
For more information on counselling orders or court-approved counselling programs, contact your nearest Specialist Family Violence Court.
This is not a full list of legislation associated with this topic. See the Victorian Government's legislation website for more information.