Protecting Children from Domestic Violence


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Protecting Children from Domestic Violence

The issue of Domestic Violence has been highlighted in the media recently, making this an appropriate time to discuss how children can be protected in circumstances where domestic violence is occurring between their parents.

Protection Orders

In Queensland, a spouse or other individual with a sufficiently close relationship can apply to the Court for a Protection Order in cases of domestic violence under the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012 (Qld). The person seeking the order is known as the Aggrieved, while the person against whom the order is sought is known as the Respondent.

A Protection Order, when granted by the Court, requires the Respondent to be of good behaviour and to not commit domestic violence against the Aggrieved. The Respondent is also required to not commit ‘associated domestic violence’. Associated domestic violence is domestic violence committed by the Respondent against a child of the Aggrieved or a child that usually lives with the Aggrieved. Failing to obey the requirements of a Protection Order is a criminal offence.

As can be seen, a Protection Order granted in favour of one parent against the other does provide a measure of protection to their children as well.

However, consider a scenario where the Aggrieved parent works full-time and places their child in child care during work hours. They have obtained a Protection Order in the above terms against their abusive spouse, from whom they have recently separated. The Aggrieved parent is worried that the other parent will attend at the child care centre unannounced and remove the child without the Aggrieved parent’s knowledge, let alone permission. This action in itself would not be an act of domestic violence against the child, but is clearly a situation that would cause real concern to the Aggrieved parent and could expose the child to the risk of domestic violence.

What can the Aggrieved parent do?

The solution is for the relevant child to be named in the Protection Order along with the Aggrieved parent. The child can be either a child of the Aggrieved or a child that usually lives with the Aggrieved.

The Court can name a child in an Order if doing so is believed to be necessary or desirable to protect the child from ‘associated domestic violence’ or being exposed to domestic violence committed by the Respondent.

Just by naming the child, the Respondent is also required to be of good behaviour towards the child, not commit ‘associated domestic violence’ against the child, and not expose the child to domestic violence.

As you may note, this affords the child some protection but does not necessarily prevent the child from being removed from the child care centre in the scenario above.

However, by naming the child in the Protection Order, the Court can also impose additional conditions on the Respondent parent’s interactions with the named child, including:

  • Prohibiting the Respondent from approaching or attempting to approach the child (the Order can state a specific distance within which the Respondent cannot approach);
  • Prohibiting the Respondent from contacting, attempting to contact or asking another person to contact the child; and
  • Prohibiting particular behaviour by the Respondent towards a child of the Aggrieved or a child usually living with the Aggrieved, including prohibiting the Respondent’s presence at or in a place associated with the child.

Therefore, the Aggrieved parent could apply for a Protection Order against the Respondent parent naming the child in the Order and seek a condition preventing the Respondent spouse from attending the child care centre.

If the Order was granted and the Respondent attended the child care centre despite the Order being in place, this would be a criminal offence and the child care centre’s employees would be able to call the police to enforce the Order.