Family violence and family law

If you are in immediate danger, call 000.

Research shows that relationship breakdown and separation is a time of increased risk of family violence, both physical and emotional.

Physical and emotional violence against a current or former partner is unacceptable. There are no acceptable reasons for violent or abusive behaviour during the breakdown of a relationship.

Recognising that no one should have to live with family violence, the Family Law Act 1975 focuses on the safety of children.

Family violence and family law

The Family Law Act recognises that family and domestic violence takes many forms. These can be physical, sexual, emotional or psychological. It can include behaviour such as restricting access to money, to family members or to cultural support, or limiting social independence.

Exposing children to family and domestic violence is regarded as child abuse. The effects of family violence on children are significant.

Under Australian family law, children have a right to enjoy a meaningful relationship with their parents, and be protected from harm.

Research suggests that shared parenting is good for children when parents can cooperate and there is low conflict. Shared parenting where there is high conflict, especially family violence, may not be good for children.

When making parenting orders, the court will consider the best interests of the child. The Family Law Act prioritises the safety of children in parenting matters by giving greater weight to the protection of children from harm when determining what is in their best interests.

Family violence and Family Dispute Resolution (FDR)

If you or your family have experienced, or are at risk of, family violence or child abuse, you may seek an exemption from to the usual requirement to attempt Family Dispute Resolution before going to court for parenting orders.

More information about how to apply for this exemption from compulsory Family Dispute Resolution is available from the Federal Circuit Court of Australia or the Family Court of Australia.

Where to get help

For information, referral and counselling about family violence, contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732.

This service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If you are concerned for your safety whilst going through family law proceedings, contact the family law courts to ask about a safety plan. The courts can make arrangements to ensure the safety of participants and witnesses to family law court proceedings.

To find out more about safety plans, you may like to visit the family law courts’ websites, or contact the family law courts.

Family Court of Australia 1300 352 000

Federal Circuit Court of Australia 1300 352 000

Family Court of Western Australia 1800 199 228

Chris and Ashley have separated and were initially able to work together to make a parenting plan for shared care for their son Max. However, Ashley has now started insulting Chris during handovers in Max’s presence.

Max feels upset about this. Chris tries to ignore Ashley’s behaviour. When Max is in Chris’s care, Ashley begins to regularly show up wherever Chris is. Chris tries to talk about this during a handover, and the argument escalates when Ashley hits Chris. Max witnesses the argument. Chris then talks to the police about taking out a protection order against Ashley.

Chris seeks legal advice about parenting arrangements for Max. Chris is advised that although it is usually compulsory to attempt Family Dispute Resolution, it may not be appropriate in this case. Although it is important for Max to have a relationship with both his parents, Max’s safety is a priority. Chris may be able to make an application directly to the court for parenting orders. The court is able make orders relating to Max’s care, whilst also ensuring that he is safe.

Related links

Family Violence Best Practice Principles – December 2016

National Domestic Violence Bench Book

Family Court of Australia

Federal Circuit Court of Australia

Family Court of Western Australia

Next steps

Contact 1800RESPECT.

Talk to a family violence service near you.

Seek legal advice.