Domestic Violence Law in Australia

The definition of domestic violence (sometimes referred to as “DV” or “family violence”) is a broad one. Many different types of conduct can fall within the parameters.

In the ACT, the relevant legislation is called the Family Violence Act 2016 (ACT).

The definition of family violence in the ACT has recently been expanded. Family violence does not require physical or verbal abuse or violence. It can also include emotional, psychological or economic abuse, or behaviour that is threatening, controlling, or which causes a person to feel fear for the safety or well-being of themselves or a third party.

Applications for what are known as “family violence orders” (which were previously called “domestic violence orders” or “DVOs” for short) are determined at the ACT Magistrates Court.

The types of family violence orders that can be made include orders that:

  1. Prevent a person from approaching a particular property or place such as a home, workplace, or school;
  2. Prevent a person from being with a specified distance of the protected person;
  3. Prevent a person from taking the belongings of the protected person, or refusing to return such belongings;

The orders that can be made are flexible and can be customised to the particular circumstances.

In Victoria, Intervention Orders are made by the Magistrates Court.

You can make an application for an Intervention Order personally or the police can make one on your behalf. If you wish to make an application yourself, it is advisable that you make an appointment to seek specific legal advice prior to doing so.

There is quite an overlap between family violence issues and family law issues and the courts are sensitive to that. Considering how to make provision for children in circumstances where there is domestic violence, and how to deal with a family law matter if a family violence Order has been made, are vital considerations to the final outcome for a party to proceedings.

Domestic violence can, in certain situations, be relevant to financial applications (property settlement or spousal maintenance) arising out of the end of a marital or de facto relationship.

For advice regarding domestic violence issues contact your Farrar Gesini Dunn solicitor.

Domestic Violence FAQs

The definition of ‘domestic violence’ (sometimes referred to as ‘DV’ or ‘family violence’) in the Family Law Act includes violent, threatening or other behavior that ‘coerces or controls a member of the person’s family…or causes the family member to be fearful’.

Family violence need not involve an actual assault but can include things like denying the family member financial autonomy, unreasonably withholding financial support, preventing a family member from making or keeping connections with their family, friends or culture, or unlawfully depriving the family member of their liberty.

It is often thought of that abuse is limited to acts of physical violence. This is not the case. Abuse can be either physical or emotional. If your partner humiliates or criticises you, threatens or emotionally blackmails you or your children or family members, keeps you from seeing your children or restricts your access to finances, the phone or the internet you may be experiencing family violence.

You may feel unsafe within your relationship or you are worried about the safety of your children, you may also feel controlled or isolated. If either you or children are being subjected to family violence you should contact our office today to speak with a domestic violence lawyer for a free initial appointment to discuss your legal rights and options.

If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic violence, there is an abundance of help available:

  • If you’re in the ACT please contact the Domestic Violence Crisis Service (‘DVCS’) (Tel 02 6280 0900). The DVCS team are considerate and confidential in assisting you or a family member break out of the cycle of Family Violence. In cases of emergencies, you should call the Police on 000 or 131 444.
  • If you’re in Melbourne, please contact the Women’s Domestic Violence Crisis Service Victoria (Tel 03 9322 3555). In cases of emergencies, you should call the Police on 000 or your nearest station.