If you have been subjected to, or accused of, family violence in your family law matter, it is important you obtain professional legal advice. Our domestic violence lawyers can guide you through your parenting or property family law matter and help you understand how domestic violence can impact your matter.
What is Family Violence?
The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) defines family violence as “violent, threatening or other behaviour by a person that coerces or controls a member of the person’s family or causes the family member to be fearful” (section 4AB(1)). This includes to both married partners or de-facto relationships.
The legislation further provides some examples of what constitute family violence, namely:
- sexual assault or other sexually abusive behaviour;
- repeated derogatory taunts;
- intentionally damaging or destroying property;
- intentionally causing death or injury to an animal;
- unreasonably denying the family member the financial autonomy he/she would otherwise have had;
- unreasonably withholding financial support needed to meet the reasonable living expenses of the family member, or his/her child, at a time when the family member is entirely or predominantly dependent on the person for financial support;
- preventing the family member from making or keeping connections with his/her family, friends or culture; or
- unlawfully depriving the family member, or any member of the family member’s family, of his/her liberty.
Common themes of domestic violence include physical violence, sexual violence, emotional violence, financial control, and social control.
How is Domestic/ Family Violence relevant to a family law matter?
In the context of parenting proceedings (that is, seeking Court orders for your child/ren), the inclusion of family violence is wholly significant. For example:
- There is a presumption each parent is to have equal shared parental responsibility for each of their children. However, this presumption can be displaced in circumstances where there has been family violence.
- When the Court is to make an Order that is in the best interests of a child (such as the amount of time a child is to spend with either parent), the paramount consideration for the Court is to consider the risk if any posed to the children in the care of either parent. The Court also considers as an additional consideration whether there is any family violence order (i.e. apprehended violence order) in place.
The Court has commenced in several registries an initiative known as the ‘Lighthouse Project’ which is designed to respond to cases which involve family violence by allocating resources and urgency to such families. In New South Wales, the Parramatta Registry is the only registry with this project.
In the context of property proceedings, it is open to either party to argue that their property settlement entitlements should be higher than usual due to being subjected to family violence throughout their relationship.
Family Violence Orders
In New South Wales, if there are complaints of violence then these issues are often dealt with in the Local Court. That Court can consider whether to grant an apprehended violence order (domestic or personal).
These orders can impact on family law matters and therefore the consequences of whether or not you should defend these applications needs to be considered.
The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia can make further Orders that they see fit for the purposes of protecting a parent or child (even if an apprehended violence order exists). One example includes restraining a party from being within a certain distance from the other party’s (or child) residence, school or place of work.
How can we help you?
Our family law practice group which includes domestic violence lawyers specialises in matters which involve domestic or family violence. We understand domestic violence is a very sensitive topic and we can assist you with professionalism.
We have solicitors including accredited specialists in family law who may provide succinct legal advice to you in a cost efficient manner.
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