Dealing with Domestic and Family Violence

He doesn’t hit me. Is it really domestic and family violence?

Domestic and family violence comes in many forms and is not limited to physical violence. It can occur in many different types of settings and can be experienced directly or indirectly. In Queensland, the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012 contains a broad definition of Domestic Violence. It includes behaviour that:

  • physically or sexually abusive; or
  • emotionally or psychologically abusive; or
  • economically abusive; or
  • threatening; or
  • coercive, which means they compel or force the other person to do, or not do, something; or
  • in any other way controls or dominates the other person, causing them to fear for their own safety or wellbeing, or the safety and wellbeing of someone else.

For example, the following behaviors are examples of domestic violence:

  • damaging the other person’s property or threatening to do so;
  • depriving the other person of their liberty or threatening to do so;
  • threatening the other person with death/injury, or death/injury of their child or someone else;
  • threatening to commit suicide or self-harm so as to torment, intimidate or frighten the other person;
  • threatening to or actually causing the death of, or injury to, an animal, whether or not the animal belongs to the person to whom the behaviour is directed, so as to control, dominate or coerce the person;
  • unauthorised surveillance of the other person, which means the unreasonable monitoring or tracking of their movements, activities or interpersonal associations without their consent, including, for example, by using technology. Example:
  • reading a person’s SMS messages
  • monitoring a person’s email account or internet browser history
  • monitoring a person’s account with a social networking internet site
  • using a GPS device to track a person’s movements
  • checking the recorded history in a person’s GPS device
  • unlawfully stalking the other person.
  • causing personal injury to the other person or threatening to do so;
  • coercing the other person to engage in sexual activity or attempting to do so;
  • getting another person (outside of the relationship) to engage in any of the above behavior.

For more examples about what constitutes domestic violence, have a look at the following links:

Are DVO’s just for people who are married, or in a de facto relationship?

No. There just needs to be a “relevant relationship” – the person suffering the violence has to be in a “relevant relationship” with the person perpetrating the violence. The relevant relationships are:

  1. A family relationship. For example, brother-sister, brother-father-in-law, child-parent, aunt-nephew, etc.
  2. An informal care relationship. For example, paid or volunteer carers who come into the home to provide care services.
  3. A spousal relationship including de facto relationships.
  4. An engagement relationship. For example, a couple who is engaged to be married but not living together.
  5. A couple relationship. For example, a couple who is dating, but do not live together and are not married.

How can I stop the violence?

A person that has experienced domestic violence can make an application to the Courts for domestic violence orders. In Queensland, these are called Protection Orders.

The Court may make a Protection Order if:

  • relevant relationship exists (eg. intimate personal relationship, family relationship or an informal care relationship);
  • the Respondent has committed domestic violence against the Aggrieved; and
  • the Protection Order is necessary or desirable to protect the Aggrieved from domestic violence.

The third element is not required for a Court to make a Temporary Protection Order because the purpose of a Temporary Protection Order is to protect those in immediate danger until the Court can decide the application for a Protection Order. As such, it has a shorter duration than a Protection Order.

In certain circumstances, a police officer may apply for a Temporary Protection Order against a person if they reasonably believe that a DVO will not be decided quickly by a court and to protect the Aggrieved from domestic violence.

The duration of a Protection Order is five years. However, the Court can shorten or lengthen this duration if it sees fit.

What are the conditions of a Protection Order?

Every Protection Order has the standard condition that the Respondent be of good behaviour and not commit domestic violence against the Aggrieved or any other person named in the Order. If a child is named in the Order, the Respondent must be of good behaviour towards the child, not commit domestic violence towards the child, and not expose the child to domestic violence.

Protection Orders can have other conditions , including prohibiting the Respondent from:

  • remaining at, entering or attempting to enter or approaching the Aggrieved at home or work;
  • contacting the Aggrieved or asking someone else to contact the Aggrieved;
  • being present at or in a place associated with a child, including school or day care centre; and
  • trying to locate the Aggrieved or asking someone else to locate the Aggrieved.

Once in place, the parties to a proceedings get a copy of any Orders and the Court must ensure that the parties understand the Protection Order.

What happens if a respondent does not comply with a Protection Order?

It is a criminal offence to disobey any of the conditions of a Protection Order. The Aggrieved should be advised to contact the police immediately if the Respondent breaches the DVO. A police officer can charge the Respondent with an offence.

How does a Protection Order work with a Family Law Order?

Orders about parenting arrangements after separation are made in the Federal Circuit Court or the Family Court of Australia pursuant to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (“FLA”). Protection Orders are made in state-based Magistrates Courts pursuant to the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012 (Qld) (“DVFPO”).

Both pieces of legislation recognize the interrelationship of parenting issues and Protection Orders, and by law, people must inform a Court if there is an existing or pending Protection Order  involving themselves or their children.

A parenting order that is made under the FLA will override any inconsistent conditions in a Protection Order. This is because federal law overrides state law. The FLA allows state courts to amend, discharge or suspend parenting orders to remove an inconsistency with the proposed DVO. For example, where the parenting order allows contact between the respondent named on the DVO and a child that is restricted under the DVO. The Court however, must be satisfied that it is appropriate to amend, discharge or suspend the parenting order because a person has been, or is likely to be, exposed to domestic violence as a result of the parenting order.

The DFVPA makes it clear that the Court must not diminish the protection given by the Protection Order  to facilitate the parenting order. The purpose of this is to ensure that an Aggrieved and their children are protected from domestic violence.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing domestic violence, please contact a support service or make an appointment to see one of our family lawyers.

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