The breakup of a marriage can be very difficult for children if not handled properly. As a parent, you want to be able to shield your child from any harm or emotional backlash, but it can be difficult when you are struggling emotionally yourself. This is why it’s important to know how to limit child separation distress and avoid situations that could exacerbate stress.
But what if he’s already in pain? What if the reason for the divorce is that your ex physically and emotionally abused your child? Parenting orders generally allow for visitation from both parents, so how can you protect your child during the divorce process?
This is where the Family Violence Act comes into play.
Amendments to the Family Law Act Regarding Violence
The Family Law Act makes it clear that each parent has parental responsibility for each of their (biological or legally adopted) children until they reach the age of 18. When a divorce occurs, the courts issue a parenting order that outlines specific parental responsibilities and restrictions in accordance with the welfare of the child. However, if there is evidence or suspicion of past child abuse, the parenting order needs to be amended to improve the child’s safety, and the Family Violence Act (FVA) does just that.
The FVA essentially amends certain sections of the Family Law Act in order to provide increased consideration for family violence and child abuse throughout a divorce. These adjustments include:
- Focusing more on child safety. When dealing with the FVA, the safety of the child supersedes the parents’ wishes when creating a parenting order. This gives greater weight to protecting the child, rather than falling back on old school mantras such as “children are always better off with both parents.”
- Re-defining violence and abuse. The FVA changes the definition of ‘family violence’ and ‘abuse’ to reflect a more contemporary understanding of what types of behaviour are clearly unacceptable. The new definitions not only include emotional abuse but also include the exposure of a child to family violence.
- Allowing courts to consider family violence during proceedings. The FVA allows courts to take past family violence orders into consideration when determining parental orders.
- Requiring safety advisors to help determine child’s well-being. Family consultants, family counsellors, family dispute resolution practitioners, etc., are used to encourage clients to prioritise the safety of their children above all else.
- Removing barriers for full disclosure of past violence. The FVA not only makes it easier for state and territory child protection authorities to participate in family law proceedings but it also ensures the courts have better access to evidence and past family violence reports.
Securing Your Child’s Protection
Not sure if your parenting order has taken the Family Violence Act into consideration? Scared that your divorce may cause additional harm to your child? Browse our site for more information on how to protect your children before, during, and after a divorce. You can also contact us directly to set up a one-on-one conversation to talk about your divorce concerns and parenting options.