The courts recognise the close connection between family breakdown and violence, and the detrimental impact on both adult victims and children living with family violence. Protecting family members, and particularly children, from the effects of family violence is central to all determinations of what is in a child’s best interest. Ensuring the safety of all people engaged in the family law system, including when attending court, is also a high priority for the courts.
Issues of family violence and child abuse have a prominent place in the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) and, in particular, in Part VII which concerns children.
In 2011, the definition of family violence in the Family Law Act was expanded to incorporate notions of coercion and control (which are not always accompanied by physical violence or threats). At the same time, the definition of child abuse was amended to include serious psychological harm arising from the child being subjected to or exposed to family violence. The Family Law Act contains a range of provisions designed to protect parties and children from family violence.