06242017Headline:

What does Australian family law recognise as domestic violence?

Divorce and separation can be emotionally difficult. Add domestic violence allegations into the mix, and the situation can become even more distressing. All Australian states have their own laws that provide for the safety and protection from domestic violence. But how is domestic violence dealt with when it comes to issues of family law and parenting arrangements following a divorce?

Domestic violence allegations during the divorce process have been in the media spotlight recently with recent proposed changes to the Family Law Act to include a wider definition of family violence. The core difference of the definition is its expansion to include behaviour that coerces, controls or makes someone fearful.

The changes are intended to prioritise the safety of a child when parenting arrangements are made following a divorce. Behaviour such as stalking, the placement of financial restrictions, animal abuse, and physical destruction of property (amongst other activities) will now be recognised by the law as a form of domestic violence. Furthermore, the changes remove the previous deterrent for raising the issue of family violence in the courtroom, such as the penalty fees for false allegations.

A number of issues concerning these domestic violence laws have been in the public spotlight recently. When a Sydney man climbed to the top of the Harbour Bridge, he closed the bridge down during peak hour traffic to get his message out about the rights of fathers after divorce. His actions both reflected and sparked further debate around the ramifications that the changes to domestic violence definitions might have for the rights of fathers and children after divorce.

Fathers’ groups are concerned that the changes will make it even more difficult for fathers to get time with children and make it easier for false allegations to surface in messy divorce cases.

On the other side of the story, there have been a number of cases of domestic violence in the news recently that report fathers going to extreme violent measures (including suicide and death) following a divorce. Headlines such as ‘Obsessive Love Lost: Why some fathers kill’ have given weight to the new laws that protect children.

Allegations and incidences of domestic violence, therefore, are an important consideration when it comes to divorce and legally binding parenting arrangements. Domestic violence – from physical harm to aggressive or controlling behaviour – are now an important factor when considering the best interests of a child.

If you need help understanding domestic violence laws, or are a victim of domestic violence, then domestic violence attorneys can help you break down the law and be aware of how changes to the Family Law Act might affect you.

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