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.
In my last column I spoke about how the law in Queensland, in relation to domestic violence, has been overhauled over the last 6 years.
Previously, the legislation required that a party in a domestic relationship had to establish that acts of domestic violence had occurred and were likely to re-occur.
Under the new law, the definition as to what exactly constitutes domestic violence has been broadened considerably.
In addition to physical abuse, it now includes the following:
Damage to a person’s property
Threatening or coercive behaviour
One of the new categories is emotional or psychological abuse. It can be defined as behaviour by one person towards another that torments, intimidates, harasses or is offensive towards them.
The fact that there is no physical violence does not mean that domestic violence has not occurred.
It can include any behaviour that deliberately undermines the confidence of the other person. Examples of behaviour that may amount to this type of violence would be remaining outside a person’s residence or place of work or following them when they are out in public.
Regular contact by email, social network, SMS or telephone without their consent could also come within the definition.
Emotional abuse can also include threats being made by the offender to cause harm to the victim or their families or in fact to cause harm to themselves.
Actions preventing a person from making or keeping connections with their family, friends or culture are also included.
Another category that may not involve actual physical aggression, but is violence never the less, is economic abuse.
Violence includes any conduct that intends to control, compel or force someone to do or not to do certain actions that denies them economic or financial independence.
An example would be where one party who is the primary income earner in the home does not allow the victim free access to money.
It may be that a meagre allowance is given which is totally inadequate to cover basic household needs.
Special requests have to be made for any funds over that allowance.
Other examples could include the removal or retaining of someone’s property without their consent and the disposal of another’s’ property against their wishes and without lawful excuse.
The new definitions do not mean that you can not have a situation where one person in the household has control of financial affairs by agreement.
There are some of us that are particularly gifted with managing money whilst others are hopeless. It is also a fact that financial pressures on a relationship can result in disharmony and arguments in the home. This doesn’t mean that a domestic violence situation is created automatically.
It comes into existence, where there is behaviour by one party, that is designed or has the effect of controlling or dominating a victim and causes them to fear for their safety and well-being.