The court system can sometimes be intimidating and unfamiliar. Below, you’ll find out what to expect when you go to court for a domestic violence order.
If you are going to court for a criminal trial, find information here
Remember, a lot of domestic abuse services provide court accompaniment, so you don’t have to face this alone.
How do I apply for an order?
It is possible to apply for an order in the Circuit Court also. This is usually done at the same time as divorce or separation proceedings. It can be done as a standalone application also, but this is less common.
This is the initial application and you will have to return for a full court hearing of the application. You do not need legal representation for the initial application, but it is highly recommended that you have legal representation when you return for the full hearing.
At this point, you should mention any evidence you have for the full hearing, including reports from your doctor, hospital or the Gardaí.
Getting immediate protection
If you want a protection order, while you wait for the full hearing for a barring, or safety, order, the judge will hear your case on the day you make your application.
Your application will be heard on an “ex parte” basis. This means that the respondent will not be in court and will not know that the application is being heard.
You will have to tell the judge why you need an order. Also, why the judge should make an order without letting the respondent know that the application is being heard.
If you are applying for an interim barring order there must be evidence of immediate risk of significant harm to you and/or dependent children.
What happens on the day of the full hearing?
On the day of the full hearing both yourself and the person you are applying for an order against can attend court. The judge sits at a bench facing you and the courtroom. The hearing is held in private and only the applicant (you), the respondent (the person you are applying for an order against), your legal representation, the judge and the court registrar attend.
Find out more about the services available to you, including accompaniment to court.
There may be media reporters present. But, they are forbidden by law to identify you, or the respondent, in any publications.
As the applicant you give evidence first. You will be asked to step into the witness box and swear on oath that what you say to the court is the truth. The witnesses, if any, follow.
You must be prepared to be cross-examined by the respondent or his/her legal representative who may dispute the evidence.
The judge can, if he or she considers it appropriate, hear evidence from a third party. These can include a Garda, a child, or a relative or friend of the applicant or the respondent. Generally, a judge will not seek to hear evidence from a third party. The judge will make their decision on the basis of the evidence of both parties.
However, your solicitor may organise for other witnesses to attend at the hearing. If you do not have a solicitor, you will have to make the arrangements yourself.
Sometimes it is necessary to issue a witness summons to secure the attendance of a witness. If this happens, you should apply to the court office for the issue of a witness summons and serve it on the intended witness. You may have to cover reasonable expenses of the witness. Or, provide reasonable compensation for loss of time for attending court to give evidence on your behalf.
If you are eligible for legal aid, your solicitor may apply to the Legal Aid Board to compensate witnesses expenses.
The judge decides if an order should be made and how long it will last. This is based on the evidence that is presented on the day. The district court can grant a safety order for up to a five years and a barring order for up to three years. The Circuit Court can grant a safety order or barring order of unlimited duration.
How is the respondent informed?
If the respondent does not attend the full hearing, the judge may hear evidence from the applicant. If satisfied, the judge will grant an order in the absence of the respondent.
The respondent must be notified as soon as possible, either orally by the applicant or Gardaí or they will be notified of the order by post. An order does not take effect until it is served to the respondent.
In the case of a protection order, or an interim barring order, the court usually directs that order to be served on the respondent by An Garda Síochána.
If the respondent is present in court when the Judge grants an order, it is taken for granted that the order has been served to the respondent.
Should I do anything after the order is made?
The court office will notify the Gardaí of the making of the order by sending a copy to the local Garda station by post. To avoid any delay in notifying the Gardaí you should call to the Garda station immediately after the order has been made, tell them of the making of the order and leave a copy with them.
The Gardaí may need to call to your home at a later stage should there be a breach of the order by the respondent. You should keep a copy of the order with you at all times.
Can I apply for orders not included in my written application?
The court can make other orders where asked to do so without you having to make a separate application.
For example, you or the respondent may want the court to deal with issues of custody, access or maintenance of children. So, it is advisable to discuss these issues in advance with your solicitor and be prepared to give your views.
What happens if someone breaches an order?
A breach of any order under the domestic violence legislation is a criminal offence. The Gardaí can arrest and charge a person who breaches such an order.
If a person is convicted of breaching an order they may be liable to pay a fine of up to €1,904.61 or a serve term of imprisonment of up to 12 months, or both.