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Family Law: Changes to family violence definition

The definition of ‘family violence’ has been broadened to include economic and other forms of non-physical abuse.

Recent changes to family law aim to more accurately reflect the experience of family violence, taking better account of the complexity of the issues involved and the varying patterns of behaviour the violence may take.

The new laws broaden the definition of violence in a family context to include economic abuse as well as other forms of harmful, non-physical behaviour. For example, denying a family member financial autonomy would now fall under the definition.

Another example of non-physical violence would be the prevention of a family member making or keeping connections with their family, friends or culture.

Importantly, the changes do not necessarily require the family member in question to feel fear as a consequence of the behaviour, rather the focus is on the actions of the perpetrator and their state of mind. The central question being: is the perpetrator aware of the effect or consequences of their behaviour on the victim?

Protecting children and their interests remains paramount. In fact, some provisions in this regard have been strengthened – the courts are to give greater weight to the need to shield children from the harm of being exposed to family violence over the benefit of children having a meaningful relationship with both parents.

If you need advice on a family law matter, contact your solicitor.