Family Violence Intervention Orders
by Lajita Allan-Agnew
Family Violence Intervention Orders are intended to protect family members who are affected by family violence from the perpetrator of the violence. Family violence includes behaviour between family members which causes a family member to be fearful for his or her safety or wellbeing. It can include threats, physical abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse and controlling behaviour.
A person affected by family violence can call the Police. The police will decide if they will apply to the Court for an Intervention Order on behalf of the Affected Family Member.
Jane and Andrew were married, but have now been separated for over seven years. Their relationship is acrimonious at best, but they remain in contact because they have shared care of two children under 12. Jane also has two other children with her current partner and they all go to the same school. Andrew had the care of his two children in the school holidays, and they didn’t stick exactly to the Parenting Orders. Jane arrived at Andrew’s house with her five-year-old to collect her children, and because she was excited to see them and it wasn’t the usual day she would collect them, Jane went to Andrew’s residence two hours earlier than the usual changeover time.
Andrew told her she was early and asked her to leave and return at 5pm. Jane did not leave and kept knocking and calling for Andrew to open the door. After 20 minutes, she gave up and left to go back to her residence. Andrew kept the children overnight and with his children on the following day, applied to the Magistrates Court for a Family Violence Intervention Order against Jane. Andrew listed his children on the order as well and in his application as evidence, included every instant over the last seven years that Jane had used derogatory language towards him in the presence of the children.
Jane had the following to consider when assessing whether she should fight the Family Violence Intervention Order:
- Whether she committed the alleged family violence;
- How the orders could affect her day to day life, for example, would she be able to drop off her other two children to the school?;
- The impact it will have on your current and potential employment; and
- How this would impact on her current Family Law matters.
The Family Court of Australia, on their website gives the following list of examples of behaviour that may constitute family violence and examples of situations that may constitute a child being exposed to family violence (http://www.familycourt.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/fcoaweb/family-law-matters/family-violence/what-is-family-violence/)
In Jane’s mind, her actions were not unreasonable and did not constitute family violence. She could have given a background surrounding every text message and email that caused her to use derogatory language and offer all the emails from Andrew that showed the use of derogatory language against her. Jane could have offered that it was Andrew who was committing family violence by his controlling behaviour and not releasing the children, albeit two hours earlier.
The difficulty with explaining family violence is essentially saying, yes, I did commit family violence, but in my case it was justified. Currently there is heightened awareness of family violence and the message is clear that the community will not tolerate it. The current campaign seeks not only to give the message that family violence is not acceptable but also educates us to recognise what is family violence. What the Courts want to see is that you take ownership of your actions and how you plan on not repeating them.
Another option for Jane, would be to accept her behaviour and make a conscious effort on changing the way she interacts with Andrew. She could also have submitted to the Magistrate that the conditions that Andrew as applying for were too onerous. In doing so, Jane possibly could have changed her position from that adult who is in denial of her actions, to that of a responsible and proactive parent who is cognisant on what is and is not acceptable and has the welfare of her family as her top priority.
Every case is unique and has its own emotional circumstances surrounding the events. TBA Law is experienced in matters of family violence intervention orders. Should you have any queries and need representation, we encourage you to make an appointment prior to the Court mention date.