The amendments in family violence have led to adjustments in the way family law cases are handled and identification of family violence.
Family violence amendments have helped the courts greatly in deciding parenting orders that promote the family’s safety and well-being. The amendments took effect on June 7, 2012. These changes are applicable to all cases before the Family Court and the Federal Magistrates Court even if the proceedings started before June 7, 2012.
Before June 7, 2012, the definition of family violence was “conduct, whether actual or threatened, by a person towards, or towards the property of, a member of the person’s family that causes that or any other member of the person’s family reasonably to fear for, or reasonably to be apprehensive about, his or her personal wellbeing or safety.”
The amendments expanded the coverage of family violence. The new law set forth a more concise definition and listed examples of violent behaviours in the family and the situations in which a child is exposed to family violence. Another important change is that the Court is required to give greater weight to the need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm as opposed to the benefit that the child will derive from having a meaningful relationship from the parents.
With the amendments, parents and authorities are better informed about what constitutes violence and abuse in the family. The amendments have made it clear for all concerned parties what acts are considered family violence. Parents, the police, state welfare authorities and the courts are better able to respond to reports and cases involving family violence.
Courts will prioritize the child’s safety. A party to the case can expect interim orders to be issued by the court for the protection of the child. Whenever the family violence is proven to be true there will be a shift on the primary factors taken into consideration by the court in parenting proceedings. The child’s safety is the paramount consideration to the court whereas the benefit in having a meaningful relationship with both parents becomes secondary.
Lawyers and parties to the case are aided as well by the amendments. It will be easier for parties to present evidence given that the acts of family violence are enunciated clearly by the new law. Courts likewise benefit because parties are guided to present only relevant evidence which makes it easier for judicial officers to search for the truth based on the allegations.
Society is able to easily identify acts of domestic violence and report the incident to the police and other authorities. The help that is given to the victims are more certain because the law itself is so clear on what is family violence.