Got an AVO? How to stick to your order

A pocket guide

The information in this brochure applies to NSW laws only. This information is not legal advice. Please contact a lawyer for legal advice about your order.

This booklet was produced with financial assistance from the Cooperative Legal Service Delivery (CLSD) Program at Legal Aid NSW and in kind assistance from Hume Riverina Community Legal Service and Albury CLSD Program Partners. 

  • Terms


    The person who the AVO is for is called the protected person. Throughout this booklet we refer to ‘protected person’ or ‘ex’, even though an AVO may be in place while there is an ongoing relationship.

An AVO is an Apprehended Violence Order. It is a court order to protect a person from someone who may be violent towards them or cause them to fear for their safety. It may also be known as an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO). 

An AVO does NOT give you a criminal record. It is a civil matter, not a criminal offence. An AVO can become a criminal matter if you breach the order conditions. If you breach the order and are charged with a criminal offence, it can result in a criminal record, fines of up to $5,000 or gaol time.

Every AVO has three mandatory conditions. These conditions state that you must not:

  1. assault or threaten the protected person 
  2. stalk, harass or intimidate the protected person 
  3. intentionally or recklessly destroy or damage property of the protected person. 

The court can also put other conditions in the AVO to stop you contacting the protected person and your children, going to the protected person’s home or place of work or going near the protected person for up to 12 hours after drinking alcohol or taking illegal drugs. 

You will need to check the order carefully to see what conditions apply to you.

  1. Get legal advice before going to court
    Always get legal advice or information before going to court about an AVO.
  2. Attend your court hearing
    Even if you accept the conditions in the order, it’s worth having your say in court. If you do not agree with the conditions in the order you can tell the court why you don’t agree. 
  3. Plan how you will stick to the order
    Planning how you will stick to the order is the most important way to succeed. Think about the challenges you will face and plan how you will deal with these challenges. 
  4. Understand the order
    Make sure you understand how the order will affect your life now and in the future. This will give you a better chance of sticking to the order. For example, if you have kids, make sure you know how the order affects you seeing them. Find out if the order stops you from having a licence such as a gun or security licence or a Working with Children Check.

A list of useful services that may assist you can be found at the end.

If you have an AVO, you might find yourself in one or more of the situations described in this booklet. These situations relate to:

  • AVO rules and procedures
  • communicating with the protected person 
  • how close you can be to the protected person 
  • contact with your children.

How you respond in these situations will help you avoid a breach of the order.

Not all the situations described in this booklet will be relevant to you. You will need to check the order to see what situations apply to you.

Q1 - I got told if I don’t turn up to court, the AVO won’t be put in place. Is this right?

The AVO can be made without you going to court and having your say. If you do not go to court, you risk the order being made final. Always go to court so that you can have your say and understand the conditions of the order

TIP: If you can’t make it to your court date, you can arrange for a lawyer to go for you or ask for the matter to be adjourned to a later date. The next page tells you how you can contact your Local Court.

Q2 - I have to drive past my ex’s house to get to work because it’s the quickest way to get there. Can I still drive this way?

Do not drive past your ex’s house, even if it is the most direct way to your destination. For example, if the order says ‘Do not come within 50 metres’, you will breach your order by just driving past their house. If your order prevents you, do not drive past your ex’s house.

TIP: Find a different way to go to work until the order is lifted. It’s only a temporary arrangement while the order is in place.

Q3 - My stuff is in the house and I need to get it. Can I go over and pick it up?

Do not go to the house as you could breach the order. You will need to get legal advice about how to pick up your belongings.

TIP: If you need to get your belongings from the house, apply for a Property Order before the order becomes final. If you are too late to apply for a Property Order, you will need to get advice from a lawyer. 

Q4 - I always go to my ex’s house on a Friday night because it’s family night.

My ex said it was okay to come over. Can I go? If you go to the house, even if your ex says you can, this could result in a breach of the order. You should not go to the house if the order says you must stay away from the house and your ex.

TIP: Start a new family tradition with your children while the order is in place. There are many activities you can do that don’t involve being at your ex’s house.

Q5 - I have to call my ex to talk to the kids as they don’t have their own phone. Can I call them?

If the order says you can’t contact your ex, you must not call your ex to talk to the kids. This also includes Facebook or any other social media.

TIP: Get legal advice about how and when you can talk to your children. For example, it may be possible for you to give your kids a phone that you can call them on.

Q6 - The order says I can’t drink alcohol around my ex or be around them for 12 hours after I’ve finished drinking. What should I do?

If you have been drinking, do not go near your ex, because this will put you at risk of breaching the order.

TIP: If you have been out at the pub drinking and can’t get home, plan to stay at a mate’s place or with a family member. If you are allowed to be at your ex’s house, do not start drinking, even if you are offered a drink.

Q7 - I need to take my mum to my ex’s place so she can see her grandkids. Can I do this?

Don’t drive anyone to your ex’s place if your order says you can’t go there. If you do, your actions will result in a breach of the order.

TIP: It is best for your mum to organise to see her grandchildren. The children can meet your mum in another location or you can organise a lift or public transport for her.

Q8 - My ex told me that if we both agree to do something that breaks the order, I won’t get in trouble. I can’t get in trouble for this, can I?

Once the order is made, the conditions cannot be changed without going back to court. No personal agreements between you and your ex can change the order.

TIP: Always find out from the court or your lawyer if you are unclear about the conditions of the order or if the order has been changed or lifted.

Q9 - My ex asked me to pick the kids up from school. What should I do?

Don’t do anything that could risk breaching the order. If your order says you are not allowed within a certain distance of your ex and you see them at the school, don’t approach them. Leave the location. If you stay and talk to your ex, this will result in a breach of the order.

TIP: Know your order. Avoid being in places where your ex is present. If you see your ex, you should leave. Give your children’s school a copy of the AVO so they are aware of your restrictions and give them details of someone else to contact if needed. If your AVO allows you to communicate with your ex, tell them to make other arrangements, or call the school and tell them you can’t pick the kids up and they will need to let your ex know.

Q10 - My car has broken down. Can my ex pick the kids up from my place on the weekend?

If this will result in a breach of your order, your ex cannot come to your place to pick the kids up.

TIP: Think of another way for your children to travel to and from your place while your car is being fixed. Arrange for a friend or family member to give them a lift. You can also drop them at a family member’s place for them to be picked up later so that you will not have contact with your ex. 


An AVO can have a major impact on your life. It’s important to have support through this process. These services may be useful.

Lifeline13 11 14
Men’s Referral Service1300 766 491
MensLine Australia1300 789 978
Women’s Legal Service NSW1800 801 501
Family Relationship Advice Line1800 050 321
Alcohol & Drug Information Service1800 422 590
Suicide Call Back1300 659 467
  • For more information

    For more information

    Visit the Representing myself section on the website for a useful guide to responding to an AVO.

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