What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence arises when one person in an intimate relationship or marriage tries to dominate and control the other person. Abusers do not play fair, and use tactics such as guilt, fear, intimidation, threats and sometimes physical assaults. They may also threaten your family, friends or family pets.
Domestic violence knows no barriers. It can happen to anyone from any walk of life and any cultural background. Despite how widespread domestic violence is, the problem is overlooked, excused or denied. This is especially the case when the violence is emotional or psychological as there are no visible scars that the victim bears.
How does the Family Court deal with Domestic Violence?
The definition of Family Violence as recognised by the Family Law Act 1975 means 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.
Examples of such behaviour are:
- An assault
- A sexual assault
- Repeated derogatory taunts
- Intentionally damaging or destroying property
- Intentionally causing death or injury to an animal
- Unreasonably denying the family member financial autonomy
- Preventing the family member from making or keeping connections with his or her family, friends or culture
What effect does Domestic Violence have on the Orders a Court makes?
When making an Order in relation to the time a child spends with his or her parents, the Court considers what steps need to be taken to protect children from physical or psychological harm and from being subjected to or exposed to abuse, neglect or family violence.
If there has been evidence of family violence against a parent and the child has been exposed to such violence this will be taken into account. The Court has the power to make protective Orders if the evidence shows that it is not in the best interests of the child to spend time with a parent.
In parenting matters, if there has been domestic violence in a relationship, then the Court does not have to follow the legislative pathway that requires the Court to consider whether spending equal time with each parent is in the best interests of the child. Furthermore, if these has been domestic violence in a relationship, the Court may consider it more appropriate for one parent to have sole parental responsibility rather than both parents having equal shared parental responsibility in relation to making decisions about major long-term issues.
Similarly, in property matters, if there has been violence in a marriage that has made one party’s contributions to a relationship more difficult, there may be an adjustment in favour of the party that has been the victim of domestic violence in relation to the settlement of property.
Unfortunately, it is all too common for us to meet with people who have been subjected to domestic violence and quite often, these people are not even aware of the extent of the domestic violence they have suffered through until after their separation.
We have a caring, thoughtful and empathetic approach to all our clients, particularly those who have experience domestic violence.