Further legislative changes to the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012 came into effect at the end of May. There have been a number of changes implemented, that are designed to enhance the protection of victims of domestic and family violence under the current regime. A key change is that final protection orders will now be in place for a period of five years instead of two. A five year order will now be “standard” and the Court must give reasons for departing from the new “standard.” Previously, the “standard” duration of an order was limited to two years, with the Court only able to extend it if there were sufficient reasons to do so.

The Magistrates Court, when considering an application for a protection order, now has a mandatory obligation to consider the terms of an order regarding parenting matters. The changes are specifically designed to ensure the protection provided to victims of domestic and family violence by a protection order is not diminished by the concurrent operation of an order made pursuant to the Family Law Act 1975 that may, for example, require victims of domestic violence to continue to interact with perpetrators of domestic violence at changeovers.

While a Magistrate has, for many years, had a similar power under the Family Law Act 1975, a Magistrate considering family and domestic violence matters now must consider those issues. In a practical sense, this is likely to see a rapid rise in the Magistrates Court exercising their powers to revive, vary, discharge or suspend an order made pursuant to the Family Law Act 1975 which provides for a person to spend time with a child, where that order exposes a person to family violence.

These changes are part of increasing measures being taken to provide greater access to justice and protection to those members of our community who are victims of family and domestic violence. Further changes will soon see a national recognition scheme for domestic and family violence orders.