The safety of children is the highest priority of the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court (the Courts).
Any party who files an Initiating Application, Response or Application for Consent Orders seeking parenting orders, must file a form known as Notice of Child Abuse, Family Violence or Risk (Notice of Risk). Parties who have already filed proceedings but make new allegations, must also file a Notice of Risk.
The requirement to file a form similar to the Notice of Risk has been in place for some time, however the new Notice of Risk has been updated, expanded and harmonised for use in both Courts as of 31 October 2020.
Broadly, a Notice of Risk serves two purposes:
- Assist the Courts to identify, appropriately deal with and prioritise parenting matters that have issues of family violence or child abuse; and,
- Provide the Courts with a mechanism to report any allegations of child abuse or family violence, or risk of same, to the relevant child welfare authorities Ensuring families and their children receive appropriate intervention in the family law system.
The Notice of Risk is comprehensive and targets issues of:
- child abuse or risk of child abuse, or neglect;
- family violence and exposure to family violence;
- drug, alcohol and substance misuse;
- mental health issues;
- abductions or threats of harm to a child; and,
- any other related concerns.
What you need to know before completing a Notice of Risk
You must look at the relevant definitions under the Family Law Act 1975 (the Act), in particular, the definition of 'family violence' and 'abuse'. Abuse and violence take many forms, so these terms are broadly defined under section 4 the Act.
Abuse (in relation to a child) is defined as an assault, sexual objectification, serious psychological harm (including exposure to family violence) or serious neglect.
Family violence is not confined to physical abuse. It includes violent, threatening or other behaviour that coerces or controls a person (for example, unreasonably denying a family member financial autonomy or intentionally damaging property). The risk of family violence, and exposure by a child to family violence, is also relevant. Exposure includes witnessing family violence, for example, a child being present when police or ambulance attend an incident of family violence.
Any allegations set out in a Notice of Risk, must be supported by evidence in the accompanying affidavit that is filed with the other documents.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.