Parenting Matters Involving Domestic and Family Violence

Navigating parenting matters post-separation which involve domestic and family violence can be an extremely stressful time for parents and their children.

What impact does domestic and family violence have on my child?

Our experience and a wealth of social science literature assessing the behaviour of children tells us that children who are exposed to domestic and family violence can experience:

  1. Delayed development and behavioural problems; and
  2. Regressive symptoms, such as anxiety, bedwetting and delayed speech development.

In some instances, children who may have been exposed to domestic and family violence may also attempt to copy the behaviour they have witnessed.

Also read: Australia’s children

We understand that this can be extremely stressful for parents and caregivers to navigate. Taking sensible steps immediately to mitigate risk and ensure that your child stays safe is critically important.

Also read: Family Violence – Your Legal Rights

Has my child been exposed to family violence?

Family violence includes many forms of behaviour such as assault, sexual assault, stalking, repeated derogatory taunts, intentionally damaging or destroying property and intentionally causing death or injury to animals.

Your child may also have been exposed to family violence by:-

  1. Overhearing threats of a member of their family, by another member of their family;
  2. Seeing or hearing an assault of a member of their family, by another member of their family;
  3. Comforting or providing assistance to a member of their family, who has been assaulted by another member of their family;
  4. Cleaning up a room or site which was intentionally damaged by a member of their family; or
  5. Being present when police or ambulance officers attend an incident involving an assault of a member of their family, by another member of their family.

I can’t afford to move, what can I do?

We understand that domestic and family violence can be extremely stressful and in certain circumstances, a person experiencing domestic and family violence is unable to relocate or move from the environment which they find themselves in due to the cost which is involved.

Should this be an issue for you, we can assist you with preparing exclusionary or ‘sole occupation’ orders, which can restrain your former partner from continuing to live at the matrimonial home until a final settlement is achieved.

We can also seek orders for your personal protection and the protection of your child (if required) restraining by way of injunction your former partner from entering or approaching within a certain distance of your home, place of employment or any other relevant venue or premises, until further order.

Can a child spend time with a parent who is facing allegations of family violence?

We understand that in some circumstances, the violence or dispute is only between the parents and does not involve the children and that pending the resolution of a matter, it may be appropriate for arrangements to be made for your child to spend some time with the other parent.

Should this apply to your situation and where appropriate, children can still spend supervised time with the parent who is facing allegations of domestic violence. It is important that children continue their relationship with their parents where it is safe to do so. Supervised time arrangements can take many forms. Supervision may be provided by a family member or by a more formal arrangement such as supervision by a contact centre. See our “Children” page for more detailed information.

I am concerned about my former partner’s consumption of illicit drugs and alcohol

If you are concerned about your former partner consuming illicit drugs and/or abusing alcohol, we can assist you by seeking orders:

  1. Restraining your former partner from consuming any illicit drug and/or consuming alcohol within a certain time of coming into contact with your child; and
  2. Requiring that your former partner complies with periodic drug and alcohol testing to ensure the safety of your child with respect to any parenting arrangements for your child to spend time with your former partner.

I am concerned about my former partner’s mental health

Mental health issues are prevalent in our community and particularly so in family law matters involving allegations of family violence. If you are concerned about your former partner’s mental health, we can help you seek orders requiring that your former partner obtain a mental health assessment and comply with any mental health treatment a therapist may deem appropriate.

Can I avoid Court?

We understand that navigating parenting matters which involve allegations of drug and alcohol abuse can be particularly challenging. As always, we favour and encourage parties to attempt to resolve their matters as quickly and efficiently as possible while ensuring the safety of everyone.

We can initially help parties attempt to solve their matters outside of Court and by way of mediation. However, we understand that in certain circumstances urgent Court orders are required or Court proceedings cannot be avoided. If we assess that those circumstances apply to you, our experienced, specialist family lawyers can provide you with the best representation to help you obtain a quick and favourable outcome.

Lisa Wagner is an Accredited Family Law Specialist on Sydney’s North Shore specialising in complex property matters and children’s work.  If you have a Family Law enquiry, please contact us on (02) 9437 0010 or to discuss your matter in complete confidence. We have a team of experienced and caring professional family lawyers available to help you in this difficult time.

These posts are only intended as an overview or comment on current issues that may interest you and are not legal advice. If there are any matters that you would like us to advise you on, then please contact us.

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