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Family Violence & Abuse in Family Law Matters

In all court proceedings concerning future care arrangements for children, the legislation requires the court to consider the extent and effect of any family violence and abuse of children.

‘family violence’

The legislation now 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. The legislation gives examples of what may constitute family violence which includes assault, sexual assault, stalking, derogatory taunts, damaging property, causing injury or death to an animal, financial control, social control and deprivation of liberty.

‘abuse’ (in relation to a child)

The legislation defines ‘abuse’ as an assault or sexual assault of a child, involving a child in sexual activity, and causing a child to suffer serious psychological harm, including from being subjected to, or exposed to, family violence. A child will be exposed to family violence if the child sees or hears family violence or experiences the effects of family violence.

If you feel you, or your child, have been treated in this way or are frightened or intimidated by your partner or ex-partner’s behaviour, you may be entitled to obtain a ‘domestic violence protection order’ to protect you from such future behaviour. If you have behaved in this fashion towards your spouse or child, you may find yourself the subject of such an order.

As part of the court’s obligation to consider family violence and abuse, the court must consider the effect of any past or current family violence order. In looking at the order, the court can consider, among other things, the circumstances in which it was made and the evidence that was admitted in the court proceedings for the order.

Where court proceedings are commenced in relation to children, and a party alleges that there has been family violence or abuse, then the party must file a special form in the court, setting out the details of the family violence and/or abuse.

Where court proceedings are in progress, any person (including a party to the court proceedings) who is aware that the child, or another child of the family, is or has been the subject of any investigation, enquiry or assessment by a child protection agency, must notify the court of the department’s interest and/or involvement. In Queensland, this agency is known as the Department of Child Safety, a division of the Queensland Government’s Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services.

The Cairns Regional Domestic Violence Service can provide face to face advice and support in the form of counselling for adults and children, court support and education.

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