In March 2021 The Family Law Amendment (Federal Family Violence Orders) Bill 2021 was introduced to the House of Representatives. The Bill intends to establish new Federal Family Violence Orders (FFVO) issued by the Federal Circuit Courts and Family Courts.

The FFVO’s would operate in a similar way to the current State and Territory domestic violence orders and act as an intended way to prevent family violence by restricting a person’s behaviours, communications, and movements.

While we currently have the ability to incorporate family law injunctions (like “the respondent is restrained from attending the applicant’s home without written consent”), the Bill wishes to establish a criminally enforceable FFVO to offer stronger protections to families at risk of domestic violence.

What does it all mean?

It means that families before the Federal Circuit Court or Family Court will not be required to initiate a separate proceeding in the State courts for a criminally enforceable protection order. They can apply for that protection order (a FFVO) in the court where their family law matters are already being heard. The Federal Circuit Court or Family Court will also be able to make a FFVO on their own motion.

It is hoped that being able to apply for a FFVO during family law proceedings in the same Court will reduce the need to navigate over multiple courts and reduce therefore delays, confusion and prolonged exposure to or risks of violence.

Currently all States and Territories have agreed in principal that the FFVO’s will be recognised nationally and with such national recognition meaning that local laws regarding enforcement and prosecution would apply. So if a FFVO is breached, parties will still be able to have the FFVO criminally enforced by the Police.

There is going to be a delay after the Bill receives Royal Assent so that the State legislations can be amended and to allow for implementation or information sharing and other mechanisms to support the enforcement of the new FFVO’s.

Mr Tehan’s secondary reading of The Bill concluded with this: “The bill demonstrates the government’s commitment to continuing to improve the capacity of the family law system to provide effective outcomes to vulnerable families. By allowing victims of family violence to obtain a criminally enforceable protection order, this bill sends a strong and clear message that family violence is unacceptable and that it is criminal behaviour.”

Article Written By: Dannielle Young (Senior Associate, Collective Family Law Group)