The law recognises violence or abuse between intimate partners or ex-partners and calls it “family violence.” The Family Violence Act 2004 was made to confirm that family violence is a criminal act, to reflect more of the behaviours which harm adults and children, to improve the safety of people experiencing violence or abuse and to make it easier for government services to respond effectively. The law seeks to support the safety, mental wellbeing and interests of people affected by family violence, including children who see, hear or are exposed to the effects of violence and abuse towards their parents.
What is family violence?
The legal definition of family violence covers forms of violence that may exist in the context of a significant relationship. Family violence therefore includes the following when committed against a partner, spouse, ex-partner or ex-spouse:
- assault, including sexual assault;
- verbal abuse;
- stalking; or
The law recognises that damage to property may be a form of family violence. It is family violence if a partner, spouse, ex-partner or ex-spouse directly or indirectly damages property owned by you, jointly owned with you, or property owned by a child affected by the family violence.
The following is also family violence when they are done, or are attempted to be done, by a partner, spouse, ex-partner or ex-spouse:
- economic abuse - that is, where one person controls another’s access to money or resources which creates financial dependency;
- emotional abuse - that can include anything from verbal abuse and constant criticism to intimidation, manipulation, and refusal to ever be pleased, it can also include physical abuse of someone else or a pet;
- intimidation; and
- breaching any existing orders relating to family violence.
What legal options are available if I am experiencing family violence?
If you or someone you know is experiencing family violence and are at immediate risk of harm phone Police on Triple Zero (000).
Police officers in Tasmania are trained in how to respond to family violence. Additionally, there are dedicated Family Violence Units whose members are able to provide a range of services to support victims in crisis situations and improve their safety.
A Police officer may make a Police Family Violence Order (PFVO) against someone if the officer is satisfied that the person has committed, or is likely to commit, family violence. You may also apply to a Court to make a Family Violence Order (FVO).
What is a Family Violence Order (FVO) or Police Family Violence Order (PFVO)?
Both FVOs and PFVOs tell someone not to do certain things, especially not to commit family violence. If someone breaks an Order, they can be charged with another criminal offence. The Order has specific conditions which may include things like not allowing someone to be in certain places at certain times, to surrender any firearms, ammunition or any other weapons, or how to make contact with particular people. PFVOs are usually made for a year, but can be revoked, changed, or replaced with an FVO. FVOs last for as long as the Court considers necessary, or until an order is made extending, changing or revoking the FVO.
If you want to know more about FVOs please call Legal Aid Commission of Tasmania on 1300 366 611 between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday.
What if I am not in Tasmania?
If you have a FVO that was issued after 25th November 2017, it automatically applies all over Australia. You do not have to apply to register your DVO in another State or Territory of Australia for it to be enforceable.
If your FVO was issued before 25th November 2017, you can have that order declared as nationally recognised. This means it will apply in all Australian States and Territories. Go to the Magistrates Court of Tasmania for more information on the National Domestic Violence Scheme.
Where can I get advice and support about family violence?
Legal Aid Commission of Tasmania - contact 1300 366 611 to arrange an appointment with our Safe at Home Solicitor.
1800Respect - 1800 737 732 (24 hours 7 days)
Family Violence Counselling and Support Service (DHHS) - 1800 608 122 (9am – midnight weekdays; 4pm – midnight weekends & public holidays)
Children and Young Persons Program (CHYPP) – 1800 608 122 (9am-5pm weekdays)
Relationships Australia - 1300 364 277
Engender Equality - 03 6278 9090
Aboriginal Family Domestic Violence Hotline - 1800 019 123
More support services can be found by searching our referral database.
I am accused of family violence - how can I change or stop an FVO or PFVO?
You may disagree with the accusation which caused Police or Courts to make the Order, or you might disagree with what the Order does not allow you to do, or both.
If you want to remove or change a PFVO, you can fill in a form from Tasmania Police. Police are unlikely to remove a PFVO. Police can only change a PFVO if everyone agrees – if the protected person agrees and if Police agree it is safe to do so.
If Police won’t change or remove the Order, you can apply to the Court. Police can defend the Order staying in place. The protected person might agree with you, say the Order should stay in place, or can rely on Police to oppose your application. If the Court makes an Order to vary the PFVO, that new Order is a FVO.
If you disagree with the FVO you may apply to the Court to change (vary) or remove (revoke) the FVO. To vary or revoke a FVO the Court must be satisfied that there has been substantial change in the relevant circumstances since the FVO was made or last varied.
Only in very rare circumstances will a Court be satisfied that circumstances have changed sufficiently to revoke a FVO entirely. The conditions may be varied but rarely will a FVO be removed altogether.
A FVO can be extended in circumstances where the Court considers that it is still necessary.
Could I be arrested or taken into Police custody?
A person may be arrested and taken into custody where a Police Officer reasonably suspects that person has committed a family violence offence. A Police Officer may also enter a property and conduct a search if he or she reasonably suspects family violence has occurred.
A person taken into custody may be detained for a period reasonably required to enable the Police to:
- work out what you should be charged with in relation to family violence;
- carry out a risk screening assessment to determine the likelihood of family violence being repeated or becoming more severe;
- complete a safety audit about how to improve the safety of an affected person or affected child;
- implement the measures identified by a safety audit, where it is practical to do so;
- make and serve a PFVO or an application for a FVO.
A person taken into custody on suspicion of committing a family violence offence must be taken to Court as soon as is reasonably practical.
Is bail available for family violence offences?
A person charged with a family violence offence will not be granted bail unless the Court or Police Officer is satisfied that the release of the person on bail would not be likely to adversely affect the safety, wellbeing and interests of an affected person or affected child.
If a person is charged with breaching a FVO or PFVO, they will be remanded in custody until they appear before a Magistrate to apply for bail.
If convicted, what will a Court consider?
The court will favourably take into account any rehabilitation program completed by a person convicted of a family violence offence. But in circumstances where the offender knew or was reckless about a child being exposed to family violence or in situations where the victim was pregnant, the offender will face a more severe penalty.
Where can I find further support?
The Defendant Health Liaison Service can assist people who have been charged with a family violence offence or who have been issued with a Police Family Violence Order or a Family Violence Order:
Men’s Line Australia - 1300 78 99 78
Men's Referral Service - call 1300 766 491