Domestic violence… It’s a sensitive topic that isn’t easy to talk about. As a result, many are often left wondering about a number of different issues that can arise in a domestic violence context. This article addresses some of the frequently asked questions we get as family lawyers in relation to domestic violence.

My partner doesn’t hit me. Does that mean it’s not domestic violence?

No – there are a number of acts that constitute domestic violence and can warrant an Application for a Protection Order, and physical abuse is only one of these acts. The Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012 defines domestic violence as behaviour towards another person (with whom you are in a relevant relationship – discussed below) that is:

  • Physically or sexually abusive
  • Emotionally or psychologically abusive
  • Economically or financially abusive
  • Threatening
  • Coercive
  • In anyway controls or dominates the other person and causes fear for their safety and wellbeing, or that of another person

The act further provides examples of the types of behaviour that falls into any of the above categories, such as causing injury, damaging a person’s property, threatening to commit suicide or self-harm and unauthorised stalking or surveillance of a person.

My ex’s new partner is abusing me – can I seek a DV order against them?

No – you are not in a “relevant relationship” with that person. In order to apply for a DV Order (formally referred to as a Protection Order), you must be in a “relevant relationship” with the person you are seeking the order against. A relevant relationship can be any of the following:

  1. An intimate personal relationship – this includes a former partner (whether de facto, married, engaged or simply a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship) and where the other person is the parent of a child of that relationship.
  2. A family relationship – this includes relatives who are ordinarily understood or have been connected to a person by blood or marriage (e.g. a spouse, child, stepchild, parent, step-parent, sibling, grandparent, aunt, nephew, cousin, half-brother, mother-in-law or aunt-in-law)
  3. An informal care relationship – where a person is dependent upon another person for help in daily activities, such as dressing or cooking for them.

The option available to you in these circumstances is to apply for a Peace and Good Behaviour Order. These orders require the named person to ‘keep the peace’ and ‘be of good behaviour’ towards you.

We still live together, and I’m worried that applying for a DV order will make my partner angrier.  How can I protect myself?

In terms of protecting yourself, you should try and establish a safe support network of friends and family, make regular contact with police if you are fearful, feel threatened or intimidated in anyway, and seek a safe place where you can stay to remove yourself from the situation. Additionally, there are a number of domestic violence support services available to men and women, which are listed here: http://www.domesticviolence.com.au/pages/domestic-and-family-violence-support-services.php.

If you are in a situation where you are unable to vacate the home you are living in with your partner (which can occur due to a large number of reasons, such as financial abuse), you may be able to seek an ‘ouster’ condition in your application for a protection order. When determining the conditions to impose in a domestic violence Order, the court can consider imposing such a condition where you and your partner are still living together, and you are unable to remove them from the home or stop them from returning to the home. The Order effectively ‘evicts’ the other person from the home in circumstances where there is risk of harm if you were both to continue residing in the same home. The Court must consider allowing them to return to collect their belongings, however, this process can be supervised by police. If they do not comply with this condition of the order, it would therefore be a breach of the DV Order and be deemed a criminal offence (addressed below).

I don’t want him/her to talk to me, but we have to communicate about the kids, can that work?

Yes. Some Domestic Violence Orders includes an exception that allows an individual to have limited contact with the other person for the purposes of contact with children to the relationship in accordance with a written agreement or a family law Order. For example, an exception can be made that the parties are able to communicate only by text message or email in relation to the children.

Domestic violence orders automatically impose standard conditions upon the other person, including that the person:

  1. Must be of good behaviour and not commit domestic violence towards the other person and any other named persons on the order;
  2. Must be of good behaviour, not commit domestic violence and must not expose a child to domestic violence where that child is named on the Order.

The court can then impose additional orders that are necessary or desirable to protect the victim, a named person or a child from domestic violence. This can include, for example, orders which prohibit a person from attending their residence or workplace, approaching them, contacting them, or attempting to locate them.

Does a Domestic Violence Order (Protection Order) show up on my criminal record?

No. The only time the protection order will be noted on your criminal record is where the order is breached. It is therefore very important that the conditions set out in the order are complied with. If they are not, you can be charged by police with a criminal offence. Read our article about Compliance with Domestic Violence Protection Orders here.

I am a police officer and need a weapon’s license.  Will a DV order against me effect that?

Yes. Where a domestic violence order is made against you, you are not permitted to possess a weapon or a weapon’s licence – even if you are a police officer or, for example, a member of the defence force. The Order will state that the licence has been revoked, and provide information as to how to surrender the weapon.

At Best Wilson Buckley Family Law, our team of experienced family lawyers are offering free domestic violence clinics in our Toowoomba, Ipswich and North Lakes offices throughout May as a part of Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month. If we can be of any assistance in relation to your domestic violence questions, queries or concerns, please contact us to arrange your free appointment.

If your situation is life threatening or urgent in any way, please call 000 or the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 1800 737 732.