The Family Law Act the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 and recent amendments expanding the definitions of family violence and child abuse send a strong message that family violence will not be tolerated under any circumstances. Courts dealing with family law matters must take into account any incidence of violence involving (or a family violence order applying to) the child or a member of the child’s family. This is to protect the child from future violence and abuse.
What is Family Violence?
- Family violence 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 behaviour that may constitute family violence include (but are not limited to):
- an assault
- a sexual assault or other sexually abusive behaviour
- 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
- preventing the family member from making or keeping connections with his or her family, friends or culture
Protection from Family Violence
The Family Law Act states expressly that protecting children from physical or psychological harm, from being subjected to or exposed to abuse, neglect or family violence is a primary principle (along with the right of children to know their parents) when a court is considering the children’s best interests. This means that children must be protected not only from the direct harm of violence but also from harm that results when they are exposed to family violence perpetrated against other family members. This is now a top priority when a Court is determining what is in the children’s best interests.
Family Dispute Resolution (FDR)
FDR practitioners screen for family violence at every step of the way before, during and after Mediation. At the Family Mediation Centre all clients are seen separately for an intake assessment prior to making a decision about whether to proceed with FDR. The practitioner may make a decision not to proceed with FDR for safety reasons, even if the client wishes to proceed. Victims of family violence will always be referred to other agencies and legal practitioners who can advocate on their behalf and/or provide the necessary supports.
If appropriate, and safety considerations have been addressed, shuttle sessions can be arranged whereby the parties are seen in separate rooms either on the same day or on different days.
Separating parents are not required to attend family dispute resolution in cases where there has been violence or child abuse.
What do I do now?
If you feel your situation would benefit from Family Dispute Resolution or you would just like to know more, please call 1800 639 523, live chat, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your contact details.