The family court is mandated by the Family Law Act 1975 (FLA), specifically Section 67ZBB FLA, to take prompt action whenever there is a Form 4 application filed before it. Form 4 is a Notice of Child Abuse or Family Violence which alleges abuse of a child by one of the parties or a risk of child abuse or family violence if there will be a delay.
Form 4 is a matter of urgency for the courts because any further delay might subject a child to violence or abuse. In fact, under Section 60J of the FLA a person is not required to undergo family dispute resolution with a party if there is child abuse or family violence or the risk of it. The court is authorized to make interim orders like an injunction for the protection of the child and to restrain violent behaviour.
The term abuse and family violence covers a broad range of violent behaviour. It includes stalking, intimidation, molesting, harassment and any other act that causes a person to fear for his safety and that of his children. Damage to property, derogatory taunts, sexual assault, intentionally depriving a person of his finances or financial support, injuring or killing the family pet and preventing access to family/friends are also covered under abuse and family violence. These are acts for which a person can file a Form 4 with the Court.
It is not necessary that the Form 4 applicant or his child be actually physically hurt. It is sufficient that there is an apprehension for the safety and health of the applicant and his child. The Form 4 must be served on the person alleged to have committed child abuse or family violence. The applicant must attach to the Form 4 an affidavit containing the allegations of child abuse or family violence. There are no filing fees for Form 4.