Family Violence and Family Violence Courts

Violence in families is a significant problem confronting communities in Australasia and internationally. It can have long-lasting physical, psychological and behavioural impacts on victims, children of the parties and perpetrators, affecting their overall quality of life. There are multiple dimensions of the problem such as the safety of the victim and children involved, providing appropriate support to address the trauma and any social dislocation arising as a result of the violence, the resolution of any outstanding issues concerning child and financial issues and the relationship and promoting the rehabilitation of the perpetrator.

The Australian justice system deals with differing aspects of the problem in various jurisdictions: criminal to hear and determine any charges arising out of the violence, specialist family violence courts to protect victims and promote rehabilitation of perpetrators, restraining order or apprehended violence order applications in magistrates courts to protect victims and family courts to address issues to do with the welfare of children and other relationship-related issues.

Therapeutic jurisprudence in this context examines the impact of court processes upon victims, perpetrators and any children involved. It looks to see whether victims and perpetrators are given voice, validation and respect. It examines court and other legal processes in each jurisdiction relating to family violence in the light of findings from research in the area, to see whether they promote or interfere with victim wellbeing and whether they promote offender rehabilitation and to make suggestions as to reform.

Since the mid 1990s, Australasian jurisdictions have introduced reforms to make the process of applying for a restraining order/AVO less intimidating for victims. There are more specialist family violence services available to support victims. In addition, family violence courts have been introduced to promote victim safety and perpetrator compliance with family violence perpetrators programs. Family Violence Courts use a system of judicial monitoring, participant engagement in family violence perpetrator programs and case management by a multi-disciplinary case management team to promote perpetrator accountability, prevent the recurrence of family violence and protect victims. The Geraldton Alternative Sentencing Regime has included perpetrators of family violence in its problem-solving, drug court-style program. The page on problem-solving courts discusses family violence courts further.


South Australia: Abuse Prevention Program and Family Violence Courts
Tasmania: Magistrates Court Family Violence and Restraint Orders Information
Victoria: Magistrates Court of Victoria. Family Violence Intervention Orders
Western Australia: Magistrates Court of Western Australia, Family Violence Service
New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse

'Just Partners: Family Violence, Specialist Courts and the Idea of Integration' conference, Canberra, 22 May 2008, papers.

Australian Law Reform Commission, Family Violence - a National Legal Response (ALRC Report 114, 2009).

Holder R, 'The Emperor's New Clothes: Court and Justice Initiatives to Address Family Violence' (2006) 16 Journal of Judicial Administration 30.

King MS and Batagol B, 'Enforcer, Manager or Leader? The Judicial Role in Family Violence Courts' (2010) 33 International Journal of Law and Psychiatry 406,

King MS, 'Innovation in Court Practice: Using Therapeutic Jurisprudence in a Multi-Jurisdictional Regional Magistrates Court' (2004) 7(1) Contemporary Issues in Law 86.

Marchetti E, ‘An Australian Indigenous-focussed Justice Response to Intimate Partner Violence: Offenders’ Perceptions of the Sentencing Process’ (2015) 55(1) British Journal of Criminology 86.

Morgan M, Coombes L, Te Hiwi E and McGray S, Responding Together: An Integrated Report Evaluating the Aims of the Waitakere Family Violence Court Protocols (Ministry of Justice, New Zealand, 2008).

Morgan M, Coombes L and McGray S, An Evaluation of the Waitakere Family Violence Court Protocols (Massey University and WAVES, 2007).

Robertson N, Busch R, D'Souza R, Sheung FL, Anand R, Balzer R, Simpson A and Paina D, Living at the Cutting Edge: Women's Experience of Protection Orders  (University of Waikato, 2007), Vol 1:; Vol 2:

Stewart J, 'Specialist Domestic/Family Violence Courts Within the Australian Context. 2005

Toki V, ‘Domestic violence and women: can a therapeutic jurisprudence approach assist?’ (2009) 78(1) Revista Juridica de la Universidad de Puerto Rico 61.