Family and Domestic Violence

The existence of domestic violence in relationships is sadly widely spread in today’s society. The perpetrators and the victims of domestic violence cannot be narrowed to one single social class or to their level of education or their wealth, it can affect people of all ages, gender, cultures and ethnicity. Frequently, marriages and de facto relationships end as a result of domestic violence. In such cases, it is necessary to act quickly to protect the victims of violence which predominantly are women and children. Each State and Territory in Australia has legislation addressing domestic violence designed to provide a fast and efficient method to obtain immediate and urgent protection from the violent party.

What Is Domestic Violence?

AIHW Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia, 2018

AIHW Report: Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia, 2018

The term “family violence” and “domestic violence” is defined differently in the ACT and NSW. Normally, the term is defined broadly, beyond simply physical violence on a person. In the ACT, the relevant legislation is named the Family Violence Act, 2016 which defines “family violence as the following behaviour by a person in relation to a family member:

  1. physical violence or abuse;
  2. sexual violence or abuse;
  3. emotional or psychological abuse;
  4. economic abuse;
  5. threatening behaviour;
  6. coercion or any other behaviour that—
  7. controls or dominates the family member; and
  8. causes the family member to feel fear for the safety or wellbeing of the family member or another person; or
  9. behaviour that causes a child to hear, witness or otherwise be exposed to behaviour mentioned in paragraph (a), or the effects of the behaviour;
  10. sexually coercive behaviour;
  11. damaging property;
  12. harming an animal;
  13. stalking;
  14. deprivation of liberty.

What Can a Victim of Domestic Violence Do?

If you are in immediate danger please call 000.

There are numerous other services available for victims of domestic violence such as:

ACT Domestic Violence Crisis Service Ph: (02) 6280 0900 (24 hours)
NSW Domestic Violence Line 1800 656 463
Canberra Rape Crisis Centre Ph: (02) 6247 2525
Victim Support ACT Ph: 1800 822 272 (24 hours)
Victims of Crime Assistance League (VOCAL) Ph: (02) 6295 9600
Lifeline Ph: 131 114 (24 hrs)
White Ribbon Australia
Kids Helpline Ph: 1800 551 800 (24 hrs)

Family Violence Orders and Apprehended Violence Orders

In the Australian Capital Territory and in New South Wales there is legislation in existence which allows parties to obtain orders to protect them from the violent member of the family: in the Australia Capital Territory these are known as “family violence orders” (FVOs), and in New South Wales as apprehended violence orders (AVOs).

Urgent Family Violence Orders

A victim of family violence may obtain urgent Family Violence Orders by applying directly to the Court (1), even after hours including weekends. Police officers may also bring an application on behalf of a victim.

The system is designed to be simple, quick and inexpensive. This applies in the ACT Courts and the NSW Courts. An application once lodged goes before the Court within a short time the same day in the absence of the perpetrator or alleged perpetrator of violence. If the Court considers that it is appropriate, interim Family Violence orders will be made and subsequently served on the perpetrator. The matter is normally listed for further mention afterwards to afford the other party the opportunity to put his/her side of the story and, to defend the matter in a final hearing.

If you have a family or domestic violence matter or just have some general enquires we can be contacted on 02 6206 1300. We are always ready to discuss this important but serious subject matter with you.

If you would like more information or to make an appointment in either our Canberra or Queanbeyan office please contact Gemma Sutherland:

+61 2 6206 1300 | e:

10 useful tips for your Family Court Appearance

By Gemma Sutherland

Going to court can be stressful and unnerving for those who have not experienced it before.

Here are 10 useful tips which may help you on the first appearance in Court:

For more information see:

Federal Circuit Court

Family Courts of Australia

Video shared from: Tips for your court hearing – Family Court of Australia

We hope that these useful tips provide you with some information and allow for some reassurance of what to expect when going to court.

Should you have any questions about a family matter that is in court, you can contact Gemma Sutherland or to make an appointment in either our Canberra or Queanbeyan office:

e: | p: +61 2 6206 1300

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Care and Protection Proceedings in the ACT – Part 2

By Gemma Sutherland

The child’s best interests
In Care and Protection proceedings the Court must always consider the best interests of a child as the paramount consideration[1] when it is making any orders or determination for interim and long term placement and parental responsibility.

Primary consideration of the Court – The child’s best interests
Section 349 of the Children and Young People Act 2008 (“the Act”) set outs the care principles to be considered by the Court in order to make a determination about of what is in the best interest of a child in a particular case..

The Court must consider the following matters when determining what is in the child’s best interests:

  • Need to ensure the child is not at risk of abuse or neglect;
  • Any views, wishes or attitudes expressed by the child;
  • Nature of relationship between the child and the parents;
  • The likely effect of changes to the child’s circumstances
  • Practicalities of the child maintaining contact with each parent and anyone else;
  • Capacity of the child’s parents or anyone else to provide for the emotional and intellectual needs of the child;
  • The importance pf the child to be settled, stable and have permanent living arrangements;
  • For Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children it is a high priority to protect and promote their cultural and spiritual identity and development;
  • Need to ensure that any decision regarding placement is about safety, support and a stable environment;
  • Any abuse of neglect of the child or a family member;
  • Any court order applicable to the child or a family member
  • Any other fact or circumstances the decision make considers relevant

The Court has an obligation under the Act to ensure that all family members to care proceedings understand what the decision making process and what decision is going to be made. Parents and family members are given the opportunity to be heard and have their views and wishes expressed to the Court prior to any determination being made. The Director General also has an obligation and function under the Act to provide and assist strengthening and supporting families in relation to the wellbeing and care of children in care proceedings.

Our lawyers can may assist you with communicating with CYPS, the preparation of court documentation and providing you legal representation at court. If you or a family member find yourselves in a situation where a child has been removed from their parent’s care, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are able to give you legal advice in relation to this area of law.

Care and Protection Proceedings in the ACT – Part 1

[1] Section 8 in Part 1.2 of the Children and Young People Act 2008 entitled Objects, Principles and Considerations

Care and Protection Proceedings in the ACT – Part 1

By Gemma Sutherland

Introduction to Care and Protection Jurisdiction

The Children’s Court in the Australian Capital Territory deals with matters involving children who may sometimes require protection from their own parents.
The Child and Youth Protection Services (CYPS) is an agency with legislative responsibility under the Children and Young People Act 2008 for the care and protection of children and young people believed to be at risk of harm. If CYPS takes emergency steps in a matter, such as removing children form the care of their parents, the agency must, within a short time, make an application to the Children’s Court for appropriate orders and directions.
The jurisdiction may be described as the “welfare jurisdiction” and is to be distinguished from the “family law jurisdiction” which the Family Court has, under the Family Law Act (1975) (Cth), (a federal piece of legislation) to deal with parents’ disputes about their children.

The process and legislation

When a child is removed from a parent or a care giver, the emergency steps taken by the agency may be to place the child in the care of a family member or into emergency foster care. In the application which the CYPS must file with the Court, it must outline the reasons for removal and what orders they are seeking with respect to the child.

Parents and family members are afforded the opportunity to file their own material with the Court. Parents and family members may agree or disagree with the reasons for removal and to the orders that CYPS seek. The Court is solely focused on making any orders that they deem to be in the child’s best interests and has duty to ensure that a child is not at risk of abuse or neglect.

Initially the Court will hear the emergency action application and has to determine whether interim care and protection orders should be put in place. If it is found that a child is in need of care and protection, an interim order may be made and the child may then be placed under the parental responsibility of the Director General until such time that the matter is finalised.

Although the Children and Young People Act 2008 is primarily concerned with the child’s best interests, elringtons understands the importance of being heard and putting forward your case. A previous client has commented “I really appreciate all the effort put into the case. You have helped me and my family to be able to start to build a relationship. For this I am forever grateful to you”.

If you or a family member find yourselves in a situation where a child has been removed from their parents, please do not hesitate to contact us. At elringtons we have a range of experience in acting for either parent (mother or father), independently for the child and even for grandparents in care and protection proceedings.

For more information please contact Gemma Sutherland:

e: | p: +61 2 6206 1300