Written by: Taylor Wilson
Effective from August 1, 2023, the Domestic and Family Violence Protection (Combating Coercive Control) and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2023 has ushered in significant modifications to the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012, fundamentally reshaping the legal landscape concerning domestic and family violence cases.
The Key Changes
One of the key amendments pertains to cross-applications, mandating that if multiple applications involving the same parties are filed with the court, they must be heard collectively. Moreover, the court is now obligated to determine which individual is in greater need of protection, and the other application will be dismissed so that only one Order is in force, unless exceptional circumstances demonstrate mutual need for protection. Sections 22A and 41G of the Act facilitate this judgment by evaluating the history of the relationship, the severity of harm inflicted, levels of fear experienced, and the capacity for harm or control.
Provision of respondent’s criminal and domestic violence history to the court
In a transformative move, the provision of the respondent’s criminal and domestic violence history to the court becomes obligatory. The police are mandated to provide this history, comprising convictions, charges, protection orders, and more, aiding the court in evaluating the necessity of protection orders and variations. These histories can also be utilised to assess applications for temporary protection orders or order variations. Vulnerable groups such as women, children, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and those from diverse backgrounds are highlighted as requiring particular attention.
Domestic violence orders by consent
Courts can now conduct hearings to examine application particulars and consider the respondent’s history before granting or varying a domestic violence order by consent.
Further enhancing accountability, amendments to the cost provision (Section 157) allow the court to award costs against applicants who, upon hearing the application, are determined to have filed a malicious, deliberately false, frivolous of vexatious application. The court also may award costs against the party who made the application if it is determined that the application was behaviour constituting systems abuse or legal abuse.
A crucial development brought about by Section 184A enables substituted service orders. This provision allows the court to order that documents be served on respondents through alternate means when it is satisfied that reasonable attempts have been made to personally serve the document and that it is necessary and desirable to protect the aggrieved. Further, it must be likely that the document has been brought to the attention of the respondent.
The reopening of proceedings, introduced through Section 157A, provides a recourse for respondents who were not served appropriately under a substituted service order and the application is heard in their absence. The respondent must make an application within 28 days of becoming aware that an application was made.
While the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Amendment Act of 2023 presents comprehensive amendments, its overarching aim remains steadfast: to enhance the legal system’s responsiveness to domestic and family violence cases. By mandating collective hearing of cross-applications, requiring disclosure of criminal and domestic violence histories, and providing new avenues for procedural justice, this legislation strives to create a more equitable, transparent, and accountable legal environment for individuals affected by domestic and family violence.
At Greenhalgh Pickard, our dedicated team of family law solicitors understand the complexities and challenges involved in family law and domestic violence matters. That’s why we are committed to providing you with the professional guidance you need to navigate any legal matters. Whether you require legal advice, legal representation or assistance with mediation, our team is here to help. To learn more about our services or to schedule a consultation, contact us today.