When most people think of family violence, they envisage physical harm being inflicted on another person. Under the Family Law Act and the Restraining Orders Act, the definition of family violence is much more expansive and extends to things as emotional abuse, financial abuse, stalking and derogatory remarks. Such definitions focus not only on violence but also the threat of behaviour that coerces, controls, or causes fear.

One of the most common consequences of family violence is low self-esteem and a desire not to be seen as a “victim”. It can be very difficult to reach out. If you are experiencing family violence please seek help. Maybe it’s a friend to start with. In time you may have the strength to contact one of the many agencies that are there to help.

When is family violence relevant?

Family violence in relation to adults is generally dealt with in your local Magistrates Court and the Family Court.

FVROs

Applications for FVROs should be filed at your nearest Magistrates Court. An FVRO will be issued where the Court is satisfied that family violence has occurred or there are reasonable grounds to believe that family violence may occur. The person protected by the FVRO is referred to as the person protected, and the person restrained is referred to as the person bound.

The Court will usually make an interim FVRO while you await the final order hearing (like a trial) for a final FVRO which will generally last for two years.

Any order of the Family Court that is inconsistent with an FVRO will override the terms of the FVRO in relation to times spent with a child. This means that if a child is protected by a FVRO but is ordered by the Family Court to spend time with the person bound, them spending such time with the child will not constitute a breach of the FVRO.

Children’s matters in the Family Court

The Family Court will take into consideration family violence in determining what is in the best interests of the child. The Court will ultimately aim to prevent the child from being subjected or exposed to family violence in making orders in family law proceedings.

Usually, a rebuttable presumption that equal shared parental responsibility is in the best interests of the child applies in such proceedings. This means that the Court will assume, absent evidence to the contrary, that it is in a child’s best interests for both parents to be equally involved in making long-term decisions regarding the child.

However, the presumption does not apply where there are reasonable grounds to believe that a parent has engaged in family violence. In such circumstances, the Court may no longer assume that equal shared parental responsibility is in the best interests of the children. The Court may order that the other parent have sole parental responsibility for the child. The perpetrator will no longer be entitled to be involved in making long-term decisions regarding the child, such as where they go to school or where the child lives.

If you wish to obtain legal advice in relation to children’s matters, please contact Kavanagh Lawyers on 6557 5888 or email reception@kavlaw.com.au.