Family and Domestic Violence Law

The Family Law Act outlines a number of examples of what constitutes family violence, however family and domestic violence laws are legislated in each state or territory rather than the one piece of legislation covering the whole of Australia.  Check your region to find out more information.

Differences between states

Northern Territory

In the Northern Territory under the Domestic and Family Violence Act, domestic and family violence can occur between two people who are or have been in a domestic or family relationship. There are many different types of domestic and family relationships. A family relationship can include two people who are married or living together as a de facto couple. A domestic relationship can include two people who are or have been in an intimate personal relationship.

Examples of an “intimate personal relationship” include two people who are engaged to be married (including an engagement under cultural tradition); and two people who are dating, regardless of whether they have had sex. An intimate personal relationship can exist whether the two persons are the same or the opposite sex.

Family Violence can include any of the following types of behaviour committed by a person, directly or indirectly, against that person’s spouse or partner:

  • assault including sexual assault;
  • threats, coercion, intimidation or verbal abuse;
  • abduction;
  • stalking;
  • economic abuse;
  • attempting or threatening any of the above;
  • emotional abuse or intimidation.

The law recognises that family violence can occur in forms other than physical violence or sexual assault.

ACT

The definition of family violence in the Family Law Act is not the same definition as the definition in the Domestic Violence and Protection Orders Act ACT.

Under the Domestic Violence and Protection Orders Act in the ACT, you can get an Order to protect you from domestic or family violence. The law covers actions by the following people: spouse, ex-spouse, de facto spouse (including same sex de facto), ex-de facto, partner or ex-partner from a domestic partnership, child of spouse or domestic partner, mother, father, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandparent, child and include “step” relationships such as step father.  In certain circumstances, it may include a boyfriend or girlfriend or other intimate relationship even if you’re not living together.

“Domestic Partnership” is defined as two people who have lived together while being in a genuine relationship. This includes same-sex and de facto relationships.

Domestic Violence can include any of the following types of behaviour committed by one of the people listed above:

  • assault including slapping, pushing, kicking, grabbing, pulling hair;
  • sexual assault;
  • coercion, intimidation or verbal abuse;
  • abduction;
  • stalking;
  • harassing or offensive conduct;
  • damage to property;
  • violence directed against your pet;
  • attempting or threatening any of the above.

Western Australia

In Western Australia, under the Family Law Act and the Family Court Act WA, family violence means violent, threatening or other behaviour by a person that coerces or controls a member of the person’s family, or causes the family member to be fearful.

Family violence can include the following behaviours:

  • an assault;
  • a sexual assault or other sexually abusive behaviour;
  • stalking;
  • repeated derogatory taunts;
  • intentionally damaging or destroying property;
  • intentionally killing or injuring an animal;
  • unreasonably controlling or denying a family member access to finances or financial support;
  • preventing a family member from having connections with their family, friends or culture; and/or
  • depriving a family member of their liberty.

This is not an exhaustive list and there may be other types of behaviour that could also constitute family violence.

NSW

Under the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act in NSW there are two types of Apprehended Violence Orders (AVO) that the court can make to protect victims of domestic and personal violence:

  • Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO) – an ADVO is made where the people involved are related, living together or in an intimate relationship, or have previously been in this situation. ADVOs are also available to people who are or have been in a dependent care arrangement with another person, including paid carers.
  • Apprehended Personal Violence Order (APVO) – an APVO is made where the people involved are not related and do not have a domestic relationship, for example, they are neighbours or work together.

The person for whose protection an AVO is made (the victim) is called ‘the protected person’, and the person against whom the order is made is called the ‘defendant’.

Victoria

Family violence is often referred to as domestic violence. In Victoria we use the term family violence, however if you use the term domestic violence, people will still understand what you are talking about.

In Victoria, the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (FVPA) provides the rules and regulations around family violence.  The Act states that family violence is behaviour by a person towards a family member of that person, if that behaviour is:

  • physically or sexually abusive;
  • emotionally or psychologically abusive;
  • economically abusive;
  • threatening;
  • coercive;
  • in any other was controls or dominates a family member and causes that family member to feel fear for their safety or wellbeing of that family member or another person;
  • behaviour be a person that cause a child to hear or witness, or otherwise be exposed to the effects of family violence.

 

To apply for a family violence intervention order the parties must be family members AND some sort of family violence must have occurred. The definition of family member is quite broad and is not limited to biological family members.

Another court that helps protect children from family violence in Victoria is the Children’s Court. If there is a family violence incident, you may be sent to the Children’s Court or the Magistrates’ Court In Victoria.

Children are often named as people to be protected on their parent’s intervention orders. However if you are 14 years old, you can ask special permission from the court to make an application for an intervention order under the FVPA.

The police can also apply for an intervention order on behalf of a child.

South Australia

The Intervention Orders (Prevention of Abuse) Act 2009 (SA) assists in preventing domestic and non-domestic abuse, and protecting children from the exposure of domestic and non-domestic violence. Intervention orders can be issued by police and the court.

Interstate intervention orders can be registered and enforced in South Australia. In South Australia, intervention orders can be granted if there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the person will, without intervention, commit an act of abuse against someone, and that the issuing of the order is appropriate in the circumstances.

Please contact the SA Domestic Violence Gateway on 1800 800 098 for business hours or 1800 003 308 for after hours.

For advice, contact Women’s Legal Service South Australia on 08 8221 5553.

Tasmania

The definition of family violence in the Family Law Act is not the same definition as the definition in Tasmania’s Family Violence Act.

Under the Family Violence Act in Tasmania, family violence can occur between people aged 16 years and over and who:

  • are married or have been married;
  • are in a significant relationship or have been in one.

Significant relationships are defined as between two persons who have a relationship as a couple and who are not married to one another or who are not related by family. This includes same-sex and de facto relationships.

Family Violence can include any of the following types of behaviour committed by a person, directly or indirectly, against that person’s spouse or partner:

  • assault including sexual assault;
  • threats, coercion, intimidation or verbal abuse;
  • abduction;
  • stalking;
  • attempting or threatening any of the above;
  • economic abuse;
  • emotional abuse or intimidation.

It is also important to note that Family Violence Orders for other states or territories can be registered and enforced in Tasmania.

For advice, you can contact Women’s Legal Service Tasmania on 1800 682 468.

Queensland

Under the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012 in Queensland, domestic violence can occur between people who are in:

  • an intimate personal relationship;
  • a family relationship; or
  • an informal care relationship.

“Intimate personal relationships” are defined as including spouses, former spouses, parents of a child or of a person, persons who are engaged, couples and former couples. This includes same-sex and de facto relationships.

“Family relationships” are defined as between any persons connected by blood or marriage. “Informal care relationships” are defined as between two persons one of whom is or was dependent on the other for help in an activity of daily living.

Domestic Violence can include any of the following types of behaviour committed by a person, directly or indirectly, against another person where they are in one of the above relationships:

  • assault including sexual assault;
  • threats, coercion, intimidation or verbal abuse;
  • abduction;
  • stalking;
  • attempting or threatening any of the above;
  • economic abuse;
  • emotional abuse or intimidation;
  • any other behaviour which is controlling or dominating and causes the victim to fear for his, her, or a third party’s safety or wellbeing.