When a marriage or a de facto relationship has broken down, there may be children involved and the couple will have to agree on living arrangements for them. When they cannot agree, one party usually opts to apply to the courts for parenting orders.
It is when one party applies to the courts for parenting orders that the applying party files a Form 4, a Notice of Child Abuse or Family Violence). Filing a Form 4 is an allegation of physical, emotional or sexual abuse made by one party against the other. Filing a Form 4 signals the court that the allegation of abuse should be a relevant consideration in granting or refusing the application for parenting orders. The Form 4 also alleges that a delay in the issuance of parenting orders would subject a child or children of the parties to the further risk of abuse.
Usually, upon the initial filing of the application, the court will direct the parties to appear before a certified family dispute resolution practitioner who will attempt to get the parties to agree. When child abuse allegations are made, however, the court will not direct the parties to family dispute resolution. Under the Family Law Act 1975, the court must take prompt action. Thus, the court will immediately consider what interim orders can be made to protect the children from further abuse or further risk of abuse.
The court will proceed to require the parties to immediately provide evidence of the allegations about the child abuse and issue orders to protect the child or any of the parties to the proceedings before it. In cases where an allegation of child abuse or family violence is made, the parties need not resort to the usual pre-action procedures of family dispute resolution.