Family Violence Orders
9 May 2011
Professor Patrick Parkinson AM says there is now a very widespread view in the community that some family violence orders are sought for tactical or collateral reasons to do with family law disputes.
Commenting on the Gillard Government's Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2011 in The Australian, Professor Parkinson argues the new broad definition of violence in the bill is flawed and could be abused.
According to the article, while the bill has been pared back since November, Professor Parkinsonexpresses concern thatthe government has still not got the balance right.
He says he supports the thrust of the Labor legislation in his submission to the Senate's review of the laws, but believes the opening words of the definition simply require that the behaviour complained of "coerces or controls" a family member.
He says this is flawed because it does not say the person accused of such behaviour needs to have the intention of coercing or controlling.
"It would certainly be problematic if someone could be held to have engaged in violent behaviour without intending to do so because his or her former partner felt coerced or controlled."
Healso objects to the requirement for the court to consider making family violence orders, arguing these are seen by many as a "weapon in the war between parents".
He urges the removal of another section of the bill defining financial or economic abuse, arguing it raises contestable issues about finances in relationships.
"In my view it is preferable if the legislation does not open up endless arguments by self-represented litigants on such issues," he says.
He adds that it is also important the resources of the court are focused on the women and children most at risk of serious harm.
"The broader the definition, the more people come within it, and the more scope there is for arguments in court about various kinds of bad behaviour that are reprehensible but don't represent serious future risks to women or children," he says.
"Domestic violence is a very serious problem and there is evidence of a history of violence in a substantial proportion of the cases that come before the courts.
"So the problem is how to focus the already stretched resources of the courts on the cases where there is the greatest risk."
You can download Professor Parkinson's submission here
Contact: Greg Sherington
Phone: +61 2 9351 0202