• McKenzie Friend Australia

Is the Family Court placing enough safeguards in parenting orders to prevent domestic violence?

May is domestic and family violence prevention month.

Domestic violence prevention, protection and tougher penalties for offenders are subjects I am very passionate about. Family, domestic and sexual violence is a major health and welfare issue. Intimate partner violence is a leading contributor to illness, disability and premature death for women aged 18-44.

The health impacts, on women in particular, of being forced to deal with domestically violent ex-partners post court trials and orders is an area I believe the Family Court system does not consider as their focus is the 'best interests of the child', not the mother.

In my opinion, mental health conditions can arise from parenting orders that contain limited safeguards around certain types of domestic violence like harassment, communication, conflict and controlling behaviour. Some shared parenting orders assist generating conflict and abuse. Anxiety disorders make up the greatest proportion (35%) of mental health issues from domestic violence, followed by depressive disorders (32%). In 2015–16, the financial cost of violence against women and their children in Australia was estimated at $22 billion (KPMG 2016). Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare; 28 February 2018 Report.

When I look at my close circle of girlfriends 3 out of 5 have suffered some form of domestic violence in the last few years. Within my own family's female ancestral line in the last 30 years, more than half have been physically assaulted by an intimate partner. These stats are similar to Australian trends noted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2017 and White Ribbon Australia:

  • On average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner and 1 man a month;

  • Almost 40% of women continued to experience violence from their partner while temporarily separated;

  • 1 in 6 women have experienced stalking since the age of 15; and

  • 72,000 women, 34,000 children and 9,000 men sought homelessness services in 2016–17 due to family/domestic violence.

The term “intimate partner violence” includes the following acts as inflicted or caused by a current or former intimate partner:

  • Actual or threats of physical violence

  • Actual or threats of sexual violence

  • Emotional or psychological abuse (e.g., name calling or putdowns, threats to “out” a person’s sexual orientation to family, work or friends)

  • Stalking (e.g., excessive calls/texts/emails, monitoring daily activities, using technology to track a person’s location)

  • Financial abuse (e.g., withholding money, ruining credit, stopping a partner from getting or keeping a job)

  • Threats to “out” a person’s sexual orientation to family, work or friends

Intimate partners can include:

  • Current or former spouses

  • Boyfriends or girlfriends

  • Dating partners

  • Sexual partners

It is sad, domestic violence isn't being taken as seriously in some family court cases dealing with complex parenting matters as prevention of repeating possible violent behaviour(s) is key to the best interest of children.

If you are suffering from domestic violence call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732). If you need assistance making a DVO application, McKenzie Friend could help.

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