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Family Violence and Abuse | Anton A Richardson

Family Violence and Abuse


As of 7 July 2012, the new section 60CC(2A) of the Family Law Act came into effect. The new section requires a court to priorities 'the need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm from being subject to, or exposed to, abuse, neglect or family violence'.

Prior to the amendments to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) ('the Act'), the definition of 'family violence' was:

Widening the definition of 'family violence'


Substantial changes to the definitions of 'family violence' and 'abuse' were introduced in the Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Act 2011 (Cth). Specifically, the amendment included replacing the definition of 'family violence' (as above) with:


  1. an assault; or

  2. a sexual assault or other sexually abusive behaviour; or

  3. stalking; or

  4. repeated derogatory taunts; or

  5. intentionally damaging or destroying property; or

  6. intentionally causing death or injury to an animal; or

  7. unreasonably denying the family member the financial autonomy that he or she would otherwise have had; or

  8. unreasonably withholding financial support needed to meet the reasonable living expenses of the family member, or his or her child, at a time when the family member is entirely or predominantly dependent on the person for financial support; or

  9. preventing the family member from making or keeping connections with his or her family, friends or culture; or

  10. unlawfully depriving the family member, or any member of the family member’s family, of his or her liberty.’’


The Australian Institute of Family Studies noted that 'while all forms of violence are potentially damaging, some carry extreme risk and urgency. Very broad definitions increase the chance of drawing into the net very serious and urgent cases...'

The aim of the amendment is to 'remove uncertainty about knowing the elements of an offence and whether an offence has been committed.'

Effect of widening the definition

Legislators, in an attempt to better protect vulnerable children and adults, particularly in regard to emotional and psychological violence, widened the definition of 'family violence'.

  1. 'Reasonably to fear'




  1. 'Other behaviour'




  1. (a) smacking a child's to punish or control future behaviour;

  2. (b) grounding a child to punish or control future behaviour; or

  3. (c) withholding financial support to punish or control future behaviour.



  1. 'Abuse'




  1. smacking a child; or

  2. threatening to smack a child.


How Ramsden Lawyers can help


The new definitions in the Family Law Act can have serious implications for you and your family.

Family Law is a complex area of the law that requires expertise and experience.

Here at Ramsden Lawyers our Family Law department has the necessary expertise and experience to deal with any Family Law matter.

By Anton Richardson, Lawyer and Partner, Ramsden Lawyers
28 May 2013