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Domestic Abuse

Nobody should have to suffer domestic abuse. It is an unacceptable phenomenon in today’s society. The effects of domestic abuse are often a significant blockade for women trying to access legal help. We are here to introduce you to legal tools and support services that will help you achieve legal independence from an abusive spouse.

Types of domestic abuse

Domestic abuse is part of a broader definition of family violence. Family violence includes a large spectrum of behaviours, much broader than physical violence.  The general definition of family violence is “violent, threatening or other behaviour by a person that coerces or controls a member of the person's family (the family member), or causes the family member to be fearful”.

If you or your children are victims of family violence, it is important to speak up.

Type 1: An Assault: An assault happens if your partner makes physical contact with you (that is unwanted by you) or makes you reasonably fear that the unwanted contact will occur in that moment. For example, if a fist is raised at you, making you believe that you will be physically hit right then and there, this is an assault. You do not need to be actually hit for it to be an assault.

Type 2: Sexually Abusive Behaviour: Sexually abusive behaviour includes all forms of unwanted touching and sexual contact. This also extends to taking unwanted images, making derogatory taunts, and coercive behaviours.

Type 3: Stalking : Stalking is a serious and damaging behaviour designed to make you feel fear and loss of control. If you are being persistently followed or watched at your home, workplace or leisure centre, you may be being stalked. Stalkers often also leave intimidating phone calls, messages and threats. It is important that you document all incidents that you believe may be stalking and report them all to the police. Do not delete emails and text messages, as these may be used as evidence.  Keep copies of everything so that you can provide police with full details about what has been happening to you.

Type 4: Intentionally damaging property: If your partner intentionally damages property such as your home, car or other personal items, this is a form of family violence.

Type 5: Intentionally causing death or injury to an animal: if your partner injures or kills your family pet, this is a form of family violence. It is important that you inform us, or the police, of the incident.

Type 6: Depriving you or the children from their liberty: This is a form of abuse that often causes the breakdown of relationships. However, the effects of this form of abuse lasts even after separation. Couples often separate, and continue to live in the same home. This usually occurs out of financial necessity. If your freedom is being denied, it can be very difficult to access legal services. Our solicitors are very conscious of such concerns, we often work with our clients to maximise suitable client communication without compromising your safety in the household.

Protections against domestic abuse

Currently, there are multiple sources of law, both at the Federal and State levels that are important in protecting you from further harm.

Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders

If you or the children have been threatened with or exposed to family violence, the Local Court can make an order designed to keep family members apart and, if the order is disobeyed, a criminal offence is committed by the disobedient person and is punishable in the same court. Such Orders are called Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders. 

If you are faced with a direct threat of family violence, you should contact the Police to make a compliant. If there is a sufficient risk of harm, the Police will apply for an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order for your protection.

Exclusive Occupations Orders

Women who have experienced months or years of family violence in the lead up to the separation can be faced with an immediate and intense dilemma of how to secure safe accommodation for them and the children (if any).

You may be eligible to seek an injunction for the exclusive use or occupation of the family home. An injunction is a Court Order that restrains a person from doing something. In this case, an exclusive use order would restrain your spouse from living in or disturbing your enjoyment of the family home. Such injunctions are provided by the Family Law Courts.

See Restraining Orders for more information on whether you would be eligible to apply for an exclusive occupation order.

Domestic Abuse and Children

If the abusive behaviour relates to a child, the definition of family violence is expanded even further. A child is exposed to family violence is the child sees or hears family violence or otherwise experiences the effects of family violence. This includes:

  1. Overhearing threats.
  2. Seeing or hearing an assault.
  3. Comforting or providing assistance to a member of the child's family who has experienced family violence.
  4. Cleaning up a site after an incident of family violence.
  5. Being present when police or ambulance officers attend an incident.

If you or the children are the victims of family violence you should let us know as soon as you can. We can help you by putting you in touch with various support services to help you create a safe environment for yourself and the children.

Book a free confidential discussion with our lawyers.

Your safety will always be an important consideration for us. Through years of experience, it has become very clear that family law issues can only be effectively dealt with if you feel safe and confident in your ability to negotiate. Contact one of our solicitors to discuss the options available to you.

Find out what your options are.
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