Unfortunately in Australia many men and women are subjected to violent behaviour from their spouse or their de facto partner. Often victims are reluctant to come forward and report instances of domestic violence for fear of further violence from their spouse or for fear of criticism or judgement from the wider community. In recent times the family Court has obtained a deeper understanding of the types of violence and impact that domestic violence can have.
Violence can take many forms, including but not limited to physical violence, threats of violence, harassment and intimidation and other methods of control. Domestic violence can also be in retaliation. Each victim of abuse will have different experiences and will be affected in different ways. The many forms that domestic violence can take make it difficult for the Family Court to define what constitutes domestic violence and therefore the term has been given a broad interpretation.
The Family Court recently produced the ‘Best Practice Principles for Family Violence’. This publication indicates the Court’s awareness of the frequency of domestic violence and is a step towards appropriate treatment of victims and offenders in Family Law disputes. The Best Practice Principles are to be used by both Judges and Magistrates when deciding cases, and also lawyers when advising people who have been subjected to violent behaviour. They are relevant to both property and parenting matters and outline steps that can be taken to protect victims of violence.
The Family Court has the power to make Protection Orders for a spouse or a child’s protection. The Court also has the ability to refer matters to a State Welfare Authority or other agency if it would be appropriate to do so. The Court must be notified early in the proceedings of any allegations of domestic violence in parenting matters so as to allow the Court to address these concerns and act accordingly.
Domestic Violence has relevance in both parenting and property matters. In parenting matters the Court’s primary concern is to act in the best interests of the children. The Court will ensure as far as possible that children are protected from violent behaviour. In property matters the Court recognises that Domestic Violence can impact a person’s ability to obtain or retain employment, on their health and on how they have behaved throughout the relationship. These are all matters to be taken into account when dividing the assets of the relationship.
If you are a victim of Domestic Violence there are a number of organisations available to assist you, the Family Court is one of them. Craddock Murray Neumann Lawyers have experience working with victims of domestic violence. If you need help, phone Dominic Wilson, our Managing Partner on 02 8268 4000.