Reducing the harm caused by family violence

Published 19 Nov 2012
Liza Nguyen

From 7 June 2012, changes to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) ("the Act") will take effect. Are you ready for the changes that make children and their safety the a primary concern in all family law matters?

The necessary amendments were made in response comments from the Australian Institute of Family Studies, the Honourable Professor Richard Chisholm AM, and the Family Law Council. As a result, the Act is now specifically designed to better protect children and their familys who are at risk of violence and abuse. They seek to achieve these objectives by: 

  • prioritising the safety of children in parental matters;
  • changing the definition of 'abuse' (section 4) and 'family violence' (Section 4AB) to better capture harmful behavour;
  •  requiring family consultants, family counsellors and family dispute resolution practitioners and legal practitioners to prioritise the safety of children to strengthen adviser's obligations
  • improving reporting requirements to ensure that courts have better access to evidence of abuse and family violence
  • making it easier for state and territory child protection authorities to participate in family law proceedings where appropriate.

Family violence is defined 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. Examples provided by the Act include (but are not limited to):

  • an assault;
  • a sexual assault or other sexually abusive behavour;
  • stalking;
  • repeated derogatory taunts;
  • intentionally damaging or destroying property;
  • intentionally causing death or injury to an animal;
  • unreasonably denying the family member the financial autonomy that he or she would otherwise have had;
  • unreasonably withholding financial support needed to meet the reasonable living expenses of the family member, or his or her child, at a time when the family member is entirely predominantly dependant on the person for financial support;
  • preventing the family member from making or keeping connections with his or her family, friends or culture; or
  • unlawfully depriving the family member, or any member of the family member's family, of his or her liberty.

If you have any concerns that  family violence is taking place in your home, in your family or in your friend's homes, please contact Liza Nguyen on lnguyen@maclarens.com.au to see if something can be done to better the situation and reduce the harm. Alternatively, call now to discuss how we can help on ph: (02) 9682 3777.