Family violence (also known as domestic violence) is taken very seriously by the Courts – not only are orders available (in the Magistrates Court) to provide protection to the victim, but the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court will take any allegations of domestic violence into consideration when determining future parenting arrangements for children.

The traditional definition of domestic violence (physical and sexual abuse) was widened in late 2012 and now encompasses a much wider scope of behaviours such as:

– emotional and psychological abuse

– economic abuse

– threatening behaviour

– behaviour which is coercive

– behaviour which controls or dominates another person and causes them to fear for their safety or wellbeing.

Many people may now be surprised to find that domestic violence orders can be made if a person in the relationship undertakes unauthorised surveillance of the other such as reading their text messages, monitoring their email account or internet browser history.

The Family Court and Federal Circuit Court also seriously considers the exposure of children to such violence (for example overhearing threats, seeing or hearing an assault, comforting or providing assistance to an assaulted family member) when determining parenting arrangements for children.

The perpetration of domestic violence and the exposure of children to violence may adversely affect the perpetrators application for time with the children after separation. It is therefore imperative that client’s disclose any history of violence to their lawyer, (including the behaviours outlined above which they may have not considered to constitute domestic violence) to enable action to be taken promptly. Any delay in doing so may prejudice the proceedings.

If any allegation of domestic violence is made it is essential that the perpetrators or alleged perpetrators obtain legal advice immediately, prior to matters escalating further, to ensure that prejudice to them can be mitigated at an early stage.

As specialist family lawyers at Phillips Family Law we are experienced in dealing with issues of family violence and the sensitivities surrounding these issues for our clients with respect, discretion and care. We assist our clients to establish a “circle of care”of related professionals, such as trusted counsellors and other professionals, where needed to ensure a holistic approach to the legal and non-legal issues faced by our clients.