Last updated 8 August 2016

The parties to proceedings (and anyone else who is aware) must inform the court of the existence of a family violence order relating to the child or a member of the child’s family (s 60CF(1) Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (Family Law Act)).

When a person raises an allegation of family violence or risk of family violence as a consideration for the court, that person is required to file a Notice of Risk (s 22A.02 Federal Circuit Court Rules 2001 (Cth), and s 67ZBA Family Law Act).

Family violence and the court

Part VII of the Family Law Act ensures the safety of children is prioritised in parenting matters.

The definition of ‘family violence’ includes socially or financially controlling behaviour and the exposure of a child to family violence, while the definition of ‘abuse’ includes serious neglect and causing a child serious psychological harm including the child being subjected to or exposed to family violence.

When considering applications for parenting orders, courts are directed to enquire about past or future risk or previous experience of abuse or family violence (s 67ZBB Family Law Act).

When advice is provided on parenting agreements, the adviser’s obligations have been amended and new obligations have been imposed to encourage parents to prioritise a child’s safety.

Parties are required to notify the court of allegations of family violence or abuse as well as disclose any involvement of child welfare agencies.

If there has been or is a risk of family violence or abuse, the court is prohibited from hearing an application unless the applicant has indicated in writing that they have received information from a family counsellor or family dispute resolution practitioner about the services and options available to them in the circumstances (s 60J(1) Family Law Act). However, the proceedings or any order made are not affected by failure to comply with that requirement (s 60J(3) Family Law Act). Accordingly, in cases where allegations of family violence and/or abuse are made, the applicant should include in their affidavit a statement of the information regarding the services and options provided to them.

Part VII div 11 of the Family Law Act deals with the relationship between parenting orders and family violence orders. Section 68P sets out the requirements for the court when making an order or granting an injunction that is inconsistent with an existing family violence order. In particular, it must identify the inconsistency and give an explanation of the order, its purpose, the parties’ obligations and how the contact provided for by the order is to take place. The court must also give a copy of the order or injunction to all persons bound by it within 14 days (s 68P(3) Family Law Act). To the extent of any inconsistency with orders made under the Family Law Act, the family violence order is invalid (s 68Q Family Law Act).