It is increasingly common for separated parents to obtain Protection Orders against their former spouse. Those Orders often contain stringent obligations on parents, including restrictions on them attending their child’s school. While schools are not required to comply with, or enforce, Protection Orders, they should have procedures in place for parents who have such orders.
What is a Protection Order?
A Protection Order is the phrasing used in Queensland, although in other states they may be referred to as a Domestic Violence Order (DVO) or Apprehended Violence Order (AVO). The terms are interchangeable.
It is a court order that protects people named on the order from family violence committed by the respondent party. Typically, the person making the application is named as the aggrieved and children are listed as named persons that are protected by the order.
In certain circumstances, a police officer can file a Police Protection Notice, which is effectively the same as a Protection Order Application, on behalf of an aggrieved party.
A standard Protection Order applies for five years from the date it is made. A Temporary Protection Order only applies until the next court event.
What types of orders can be made in a Protection Order?
Courts have a wide discretion to make orders they consider necessary or desirable to protect the aggrieved and any named person from domestic violence.
The following are some common examples of orders that might affect a parent’s ability to communicate with their child at school:
- The respondent is prohibited from following or approaching the named person to within 100 metres of the named person when the named person is at any place.
- The respondent is prohibited from making telephone calls or sending text messages, emails, or otherwise contacting or attempting to contact or asking someone else to contact the named person.
- The respondent is prohibited from contacting or attempting to contact or asking someone else to contact the named person by telephone, text message, internet or other communication device or application (including social networking sites) unless agreed in writing between the respondent and named persons.
Who is bound by a Protection Order?
A Protection Order creates obligations for the respondent. If the respondent contravenes a Protection Order (or a Temporary Protection Order), they can be charged by the police. Therefore, non-compliance is taken very seriously; particularly in the current climate where greater attention is being paid to the issue of domestic violence.
Schools are not parties to Protection Orders and they are therefore not required to comply with or enforce them.
However, this does not mean that, as a matter of good practice, schools should simply ignore Protection Orders.
How should schools deal with Protection Orders?
Parents should be encouraged to provide the school with a copy of their Protection Order so the school is aware of any restrictions on the respondent parent. However, parents should be specifically advised that it is not the role or responsibility of the school to enforce the terms of the order.
If the school is aware of a situation where a parent may contravene a Protection Order, they should immediately inform:
- the respondent parent that their actions could contravene their Protection Order (and encourage them to obtain independent legal advice)
- the aggrieved parent to the Protection Order about the respondent parent’s behaviour.
If the school considers that a child may be at risk of harm from the respondent parent’s behaviour, the police should be contacted immediately.
Protection Orders can create serious obligations for parents. Schools should ensure they have a streamlined approach to document any Protection Orders between parents and an agreed process about how to respond to situations where there may be a contravention of the order by a parent.