Paula Phelan is a Family Lawyer with Specialist Accreditation in this area from the Queensland Law Society. She has been a lawyer for 21 years and is the director of Phelan Family Law, a Rockhampton legal firm specialising in Family Law only.
Domestic violence is an ever-increasing scourge on our society. It can strike any family regardless of social status, wealth or cultural heritage.
In Australia all states have their own individual laws dealing with this problem.
Over the last 6 years the law in Queensland has been substantially overhauled.
Under the prior act, the parties had to establish that they were in a domestic relationship and that acts of domestic violence had occurred and were likely to reoccur.
The court now needs to be satisfied that a relevant relationship exists rather than being limited to a domestic scenario only.
What then is a relevant relationship?
Firstly, it extends to an intimate personal relationship and includes couples who are or have been: engaged, married or in a de facto relationship or in a couple’s relationship.
The definition of engaged can include a betrothal to marry under cultural or religious tradition.
The definition can also include the parents of a child even though the parents themselves may never have lived together and are not in a relationship.
The definition of couples can also include people who are having a relationship over the internet. In the event of intimidating or aggressive behaviour by one party in the course of their communications, they may be regarded by the law as a couple and subject to the domestic violence laws. This may be the case even though they have never physically met.
The new laws were extended to include a family relationship, between two people. The definition is fairly broad. It extends to people who are related by blood or marriage but can also include people who may be regarded as relatives or “family” within particular cultural groups according to their traditions. This may be the case even though they may not be a direct blood connection.
The final category is an “Informal care relationship”.
This occurs where one party is dependant upon the other for their daily living needs. These could include feeding, bathing and general household duties.
It does not include a commercial arrangement were a professional is paid to come to the house to offer assistance.
Under the new law the definition of domestic violence has been extended beyond physical force.
It now includes:
Damage to a persons property
Threatening or coercive behaviour
In my next column I will discuss each of the different types of violence and how they can occur.