Securing a parenting order can be a complicated process and those complexities intensify in situations of family violence. Safety is always an important consideration and the Court weighs how to respect the rights of each parent and provide the child with a safe environment. 

This requires legal expertise just as the family law property settlement does. A family lawyer can help find an equitable solution that keeps children from harm. Family violence cannot be ignored as this could endanger the child or perpetuate their trauma. So, it’s important that legal professionals are involved in the process early to create a parenting order that provides children with a nurturing environment. 

Understanding Family Violence and Its Impact 

Family violence comes in various forms and can be physical, emotional, sexual, cultural, spiritual, or financial. It is detailed in the Family Law Act 1975 and includes stalking and assault, derogatory taunts, destroying property intentionally, and withholding financial support, among other things. 

While family violence is typically directed at a partner (current or former), it can also be directed at siblings and parents. What we do know about family violence is it has a long-lasting effect on both the children and adults impacted by it. Children can experience short and long-term trauma, both physical and emotional. The adults involved can also experience trauma as a result of these circumstances, which will naturally impact the child’s environment. 

The Role of Parenting Orders 

The Court will issue a parenting order if parents cannot reach an agreement following family dispute resolution. The order will detail where a child lives, when they spend time with which parent, who takes the lead in making key decisions, and outlines visitation rights for other family members. Everyone mentioned within the order or in contact with the child must follow the guidelines as set out. 

Navigating Parenting Orders in Family Violence Cases 

Securing a parenting order is a key part of the divorce or separation process, and ensures a child’s stability. It provides them with a routine they can rely on in a situation where they can’t be sure of much. It’s far more important than figuring out the property pool or worrying about the property settlement process, especially where family violence is present. The process can be complicated, however, which is why it’s key to secure the services of a family law expert as soon as possible. 

Before the Court will issue a parenting order, both parties are expected to attend family dispute resolution to come to a custody arrangement on their own. Family violence is an exception to this rule, which is the only difference in the steps necessary to secure a parenting order. The Court will review the claims of family violence when making its decision on how to proceed, a family violence order is given even greater weight. 

Legal Process for Seeking Parenting Orders 

You cannot seek a parenting order until you have exhausted every effort to come to an agreement with your co-parent. Failure to comply with the family dispute resolution step can result in sanctions. However, if it is not safe to sit down with your co-parent to come to an agreement, you can pursue a parenting order without following this pre-action step. It is wise to seek legal advice before you take any steps, it is the best way to ensure you follow all the guidelines and protect yourself and your child. 

Protecting Children’s Safety 

The well-being and safety of the children involved are always paramount in parenting orders, this is amplified, however, when it comes to situations where family violence is present. The Court will consider the type of family violence that has taken place and how it could impact the child’s safety with that parent. The Court can also order the perpetrator of violence to attend parenting classes and courses to change behaviour. 

Evidence and Documentation 

When dealing with property settlement after separation, documentation and evidence is key. The same is true when pursuing a parenting order. Though it is separate from the divorce property settlement, it’s wise to have all of your affairs in order. 

You should document any incidents of family violence when they occur, as well as keep a record of any communications between yourself and the perpetrator of family violence. Hold onto any relevant records or anything you feel could be relevant. The more evidence and documentation you can present to support your case, the more likely you are to be successful in securing a parenting order that ensures you and your child are protected from further violence. 

Alternatives to Court 

You cannot pursue a parenting order until you have exhausted the alternatives to court. However, when family violence is in the equation, the Court provides other avenues so you can avoid contact with your abuser. If you would like to avoid court, you can speak to your lawyer about mediation and negotiations. 

Support Services and Resources 

Relying on the professional services on offer for support will be key during this time. Any separation or divorce is stressful, but adding in the complexities of family violence makes it a more delicate situation. The support is there for a reason, and taking it will allow you to navigate the situation as best you can, given the circumstances. Do not underestimate the importance of professional support and guidance during this time. 

You can call 1800 737 732 to contact the Domestic Family Violence counselling service. 

Final Thoughts 

The separation process is an emotional time, and while most people are worried about family law property settlement time limits, many people are in fear of what it means for their safety and their children’s safety. If you are dealing with family violence and want to protect your child’s well-being, contact AJB Stevens to take the next step in securing a healthier family environment.