Family violence is a serious social issue that affects everyone in a family – children, parents and other members of the extended family.

The Family Court and Federal Circuit Court take family violence very seriously. The courts are guided by the following principles in responding to family violence concerns:

  • safety is a right and a priority for all who attend and work at the courts
  • family violence affects everyone in a family, including children
  • family violence can occur before, during and after separation and it may affect the ability of people to make choices about their family law matter and to take part in court events
  • the courts have a particular concern about the immediate and possible longer term adverse impacts on children who experience or witness family violence, and
  • even if children do not directly witness the violence, they are often very aware of it.

In providing help, court staff do not make a judgment about whether family violence has occurred or not. Their aim is to ensure that all clients feel safe when coming to court.

Do you have fears for your safety?

If you have fears for your safety or that of your children, regardless of whether you are attending the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court, you should contact the police.

If your fears are immediate, ask for urgent help and tell the police if there are guns or other weapons involved. The police are equipped to respond quickly and appropriately.

Most police departments have trained family violence officers who can put your case into a state or territory court and get a family violence order (also called protection, domestic violence or apprehended violence orders) for you. Once such an order is made, the police will respond to and deal with breaches of it.

Do you have fears about attending a court appointment?

If you have any fears about attending a court appointment at the same time or in the same room as your former partner, please tell the Court you are attending as soon as possible. There are safe rooms available in many registries and provision can sometimes be made for separate entry and exit points. You may be able to attend by phone or by video.

Safety measures vary in registries. For full details of what is available, either call the Courts on 1300 352 000 or (if you have been given their number) the person directly managing your case. Do this before attending so arrangements can be made.

Support person or friend

If you are not legally represented, you may have a friend or support person attend a court conference or other court appointment with you. The extent of a support person's involvement in the conference/appointment will be at the discretion of the registrar or family consultant conducting the conference/appointment.

If you have a friend or support person with you, they may sit at the back of the courtroom. Children and young people under 18 are not permitted in the courtroom.

During a hearing, parties who are not legally represented may be allowed to have a support person sit with them. The extent of the support person's involvement in the hearing will be at the discretion of the judicial officer.

You must tell the courts about family violence

You must tell the courts of any relevant family violence orders  and file a copy of  any family violence orders as they may affect the court orders, particularly orders about a child spending time with a parent or other person. The courts must make sure that orders do not expose people to family violence.

If you do not tell a court about a family violence order, it may unknowingly make a parenting order that may put the person who has been granted the family violence order or children named on it at risk of violence.

When a court knows about a family violence order, it can make parenting orders that take the order into account. For example, it can arrange for an independent person to be present during hand-over times or order that the time the child spends with a parent or other person takes place at a children's contact centre.

Information on the Family Violence Strategy

More information can be found in the publication ‘Do you have fears for your safety when attending court’, by calling 1300 352 000 or by visiting a family law registry near you.

More information can be found in the publication ‘Do you have fears for your safety when attending court’, by calling 1300 352 000 or by visiting a family law registry near you.

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