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Domestic Violence and the Law - Update

There are considerable new legal developments around domestic violence to report this month.

Legal Aid Cross Examination Scheme

In March, the Family Law Act was amended to include s102NA. Victims have been and are being re-traumatised in the court system by self-represented perpetrators currently allowed to cross examine the victim in the court proceedings. This section 102NA provides for mandatory protections for alleged victims from alleged perpetrators and will ban direct cross examination certain circumstances. The Act will protect victims of family violence by requiring that cross examination must be conducted by a legal representative, either a privately retained lawyer or one funded through Legal Aid.

The changes apply to matters listed for final hearing after 10 September 2019.

Tenancy and Domestic Violence Law Reform

There are many societal issues caused by the proliferation of domestic violence in our society poverty and homelessness are just two. Many women and children find themselves homeless after fleeing for their safety or as subjects of the relentless attack and manipulations of narcissistic partners.

I’ve personally had women who while they are from extremely wealthy backgrounds, for many reasons are unable to access housing and effectively become either prisoners in their own beautiful home or forced into homelessness at the hands of domestically violent and manipulative partners exercising control over finances. Or they they have had no other option but to flee and if they don’t have understanding family or close friends to go they may be fortunate enough to find space in a refuge they are left homeless.

Up until 28 February 2019, victims of domestic violence were not able to immediately end their tenancy, there was a requirement to provide 14 days notice and a copy of a Final Apprehended Violence Order (which can take many months to obtain).

These laws have recently been changed in order to allow victims to end a lease immediately and will not be liable to pay any fees associated with early termination. The new laws also ensure that victims are not at a disadvantage when seeking a new tenancy.

Requirements for ending the tenancy

Victims of domestic violence can now end their tenancy immediately, there is no 14 day notice requirement and a final apprehended violence order is not the only evidence of domestic violence that can be provided.

Ending the tenancy is done by way of a Domestic Violence Termination Notice and this Notice must be accompanied by one of the following forms of evidence and provided to the landlord or landlord’s agent:

  • Provisional, interim or final Domestic Violence Order (DVO);

  • Certificate of Conviction of the Domestic Violence Offender;

  • An in-force family law injunction regarding family violence;

  • A declaration by a medical practitioner that the person and/or any dependent child are victims of domestic violence.

The Notice, not including the supporting evidence, must be provided to the landlord or landlord’s agent and any co-tenant of the property. This includes the perpetrator of the domestic violence.

Privacy and ensuring there is no disadvantage in securing future tenancy

Victim’s privacy needs to be protected and victims a