The Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012 (Qld) takes effect on 17 September 2012, introducing a new definition of domestic violence and a new test for protection orders.
The new Act has a similar framework to its predecessor, the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 1989 (Qld).
New definition of domestic violence
The new Act updates the 1989 definition, which was based on specific behaviours, to a broader definition which recognises the many ways in which someone can be threatened or controlled. For example, where the previous Act used terms like ‘wilful injury’, ‘intimidation’ and ‘harassment’, the new Act defines domestic violence as including:
- behaviour that is abusive, threatening or coercive, or
- behaviour that in any other way controls or dominates another person causing fear.
Abuse, threat, coercion or control can be physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or economic.
The new definition aligns closely with updates to the definition of ‘family violence’ under the Family Law Act 1974 (Cth), which took effect on 7 June 2012.
New test for protection orders
Under the new Act, the Court is still required to use a three step test before making a Protection Order. The most significant change is the amendment to the third step. Previously, the Court was required to make a finding that further acts of domestic violence were ‘likely’ before granting a protection order.
The ‘likely’ test was criticised as being too heavy a burden to prove. Now, the test for the third step in getting a protection order is that it ‘is necessary or desirable to protect the aggrieved from domestic violence’.
It is also no longer necessary to be in a ‘domestic’ relationship to access the protections of the Act. The new Act extends to family relationships, intimate personal relationships (including spouses) and informal care relationships, whether or not the people in the relationship are living together.
Increased penalties for breaching an order
Importantly, the Act also increases the maximum penalties. The maximum is now a $6,000 fine or two years in prison. However, if an offence has already been committed in the previous five years, this increases to $12,000 or three years in prison.
What does this mean for you?
We expect that the new test will make it easier to obtain a protection order. However, this does not necessarily mean that it will be easy to get an order made against you for the wrong reasons. The new Act specifically requires the Court to work out which person is in real need of protection when both parties file competing applications for protection orders.
If you want to speak to someone about domestic or family violence, or the impact of a protection order on a family law matter, feel free to call us on (07) 3837 3600.
Disclaimer: This update provides an overview only of the new legislation, and is not all inclusive. It should not be considered to be legal advice. You should obtain legal advice for your specific circumstances before relying on general information.