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Family law changes help deal with DFV

FCFCOA Senior Judicial Registrar Bruce Thiele addresses the Gold Coast Legal Conference. Photos: Jon Wright/Event Photos Australia

The pervasiveness of Domestic and Family Violence (DFV) was a key theme of a popular session at the annual Gold Coast Legal Conference on Friday.

Senior Judicial Registrar Bruce Thiele, of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia, and Brisbane Barrister Greg Shoebridge, delivered the family law presentation Practical issues from May 24 at RACV Royal Pines Resort at Benowa.

The pair addressed the recent changes to family law as a result of the Family Law Amendment (Information Sharing) Act 2023 (Cth), and the Family Law Amendment Act 2023 (Cth).

Bruce said the changes would help the court manage “the reality” of DFV, which was increasing.

“By the time it comes to an interim hearing, I don’t think I’ve dealt with, in the last two-and-a-half years, a single matter that did not involve it,” he said.

“I think court is in a way a mirror of society and particularly south-east Queensland, with the socio-economic stressors that are on particular families.

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“It’s probably not really that surprising that risk factors are increasing in relation to litigation and the allegations of harm that are coming into our court.”


Bruce Thiele and Greg Shoebridge

Bruce said family violence was very important to the court in terms of managing coercive control and violent behaviour.

“It’s astounding how prevalent it is in our society but particularly in our little court,”  he said.

“The requirements under the best interests consideration really mean that we must be very vigilant about not exposing anybody to family violence.”

He said practitioners needed to bear this in mind when requesting joint parental responsibility.

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“In terms of family violence, it’s getting better in terms of how it is addressed in affidavits, I must say,” he said.

“The focusing on particularising patterns, the potency, and the impact of the behaviour, has improved.

“What has not improved is the responses, the response affidavits from the perpetrators.

“Frankly, an affidavit which denies all of the allegation is unhelpful.

“The problem with dealing with a perpetrator’s affidavit that just says that they deny everything means that I’ve only got the assertions of the victim and there’s plenty of case law around what that means on an interim basis, particularly where there is corroborating documents from the police call-outs (and) hospital records where somebody’s gone to hospital inured.

“It makes the managing of that risk very hard when the perpetrator continues to deny. It always leaves a little thought in the back of my head – if I allow these children into the unsupervised care of the perpetrator when they are denying family violence, what are they going to say to these children?”

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Other topics discussed during the one-hour session included new forms, interim hearings, best interest considerations, the removal of the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility, indigenous families, Independent Children’s Lawyer obligations, the codification of Rice v Asplund, delegations, contraventions, family report writers and Harmful Proceedings Orders.

Bruce and Greg were among more than 20 speakers at the sold-out one-day conference, which was presented by Queensland Law Society in conjunction with the Gold Coast District Law Association, and major partners FTI Consulting, InfoTrack, LEAP and PEXA. The conference was worth up to 10 CPD points.

Keep an eye on QLS Proctor for more photos from the event.

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