This article was written by Michelle Makela - Legal Practice Director

Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning.  Michelle has been involved in all practice areas of the firm and in her personal practice has had experience in litigation at all levels (state and federal industrial tribunals, the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, Federal...

What is the Definition of Family Violence?

How family violence should be defined for the purpose of family law proceedings has become a topic of considerable concern in recent years. In 2011, the definition of family violence in the Family Law Act 1975 was amended. The definition of family violence now includes ‘coercion and control’ and the definition of abuse now includes ‘serious psychological harm’.

Definition Of Family Violence

The definition of family violence under Section 4AB (1) of the Family Law Act 1975 is now the following:

…violent, threatening or other behaviour by a person that coerces or controls a member of the person’s family (the family member), or causes the family member to be fearful.

Section 4AB (a) also provides a number of examples of behaviours which the Family Law Act considers constitute family violence, as follows:

  • An assault;
  • sexual assault or sexually abusive behaviour;
  • Stalking;
  • Repeated derogatory taunts;
  • Intentionally damaging or destroying property;
  • Intentionally causing death or injury to an animal;
  • Unreasonably denying the family member the financial autonomy that he or she would otherwise have had;
  • Unreasonably withholding financial support needed to meet the reasonable living expenses of the family member, or his or her child, at a time when the family member is entirely or predominantly dependent on the person for financial support;
  • Preventing the family member from making or keeping connections with his or her family, friends or culture;
  • Unlawfully depriving the family member, or any member of the family member’s family, of his or her liberty.

These behaviours will constitute family violence towards children if they are in the presence or hearing of children.

Examples Of Family Violence

Family violence includes, but is not limited to, the following behaviours:

  • Overhearing threats of death or personal injury by a member of the child’s family towards another member of the child’s family;
  • Seeing or hearing an assault of a member of the child’s family by another member of the child’s family;
  • Comforting or providing assistance to a member of the child’s family who has been assaulted by another member of the child’s family;
  • Cleaning up a site after a member of the child’s family has intentionally damaged property of another member of the child’s family;
  • Being present when police or ambulance officers attend an incident involving the assault of a member of the child’s family by another member of the child’s family.

Notice of risk

Since 2015, a person applying for or responding to an application for parenting orders must file a Notice of Risk form. This form requires the party to set out the details of any instances of child abuse or family violence or other risks to the children posed by any party to the proceeding that they are aware of.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.


Taking the next step and contacting a family lawyer can be scary. Our lawyers will make you feel comfortable so you can talk about your situation. But first, ask yourself, Do I really need a lawyer?


Armstrong Legal
Social Rating
Based on 295 reviews
Legal Hotline.
Open 7am - Midnight, 7 Days
Call 1300 038 223