Domestic violence is a pervasive issue that has significant impacts on all family members involved, particularly children. In Australia, the Family Law Act 1975 prioritises the best interests of the child, and this principle guides all decisions made by the court regarding child custody and contact arrangements.
Best Interests of the Child:
The primary consideration in any family law matter involving children is the best interests of the child. When there is a history of domestic violence, the court must carefully weigh the child's need for a meaningful relationship with both parents against the need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm.
In general, there is a presumption of shared parental responsibility in Australian family law, meaning both parents have an equal say in major decisions affecting the child. However, this presumption does not apply in cases where there are reasonable grounds to believe that a parent or a person living with a parent has engaged in abuse or family violence.
If a domestic violence order is in place, the court must consider the terms of the order, the circumstances in which it was made, and any evidence of family violence when making decisions about child contact arrangements. The existence of a DVO does not automatically mean that a parent will be denied contact with their child, but it is a factor the court will consider.
In some cases, the court may order supervised contact between the parent and the child to ensure the child's safety. Supervised contact may take place at a designated contact centre or in the presence of a trusted third party.
In extreme cases, where the court believes that any contact with the parent would be detrimental to the child's wellbeing, it may order no contact between the parent and the child.
When making decisions about child contact arrangements in cases involving domestic violence, the court will consider several factors, including:
The court will consider the nature, frequency, and severity of the violence, as well as the circumstances in which it occurred.
The court will consider the impact of the violence on the child, both physically and psychologically.
The court will assess the capacity of each parent to provide for the child's needs and to protect the child from harm.
The court will also consider any other factors it deems relevant to the case, such as the child's age, the child's relationship with each parent, and the views of the child.
Domestic violence orders play a crucial role in protecting victims of domestic violence and their children. In Australian family law, the best interests of the child are always the primary consideration when making decisions about child contact arrangements. The existence of a DVO is a significant factor that the court will consider, but it does not automatically mean that a parent will be denied contact with their child. The court will carefully weigh all the relevant factors and make a decision that is in the best interests of the child.