Does an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO) prevent me from seeing my children?

Family violence is a serious issue that is unfortunately prevalent in many households.

The definition of Family violence is found in Section 4AB(1) of the Family Law Act 1975 and means “violent, threatening or other behaviour by a person that coerces or controls a member of the person’s family (the family member), or causes the family member to be fearful”.

Examples of family violence have recently been extended to include:

  • An assault;
  • Sexual assault;
  • Stalking;
  • Repeated derogatory taunts;
  • Intentionally damaging or destroying property;
  • Unreasonably denying the family member the financial autonomy that he or she would otherwise have had;
  • Unreasonably withholding financial support needed to meet the reasonable living expenses of the family member, or his or her child, at a time when the family member is entirely or predominantly dependent on the person for financial support;
  • Preventing the family member from making or keeping connections with his or her family, friends or culture;
  • Unlawfully depriving the family member, or any member of the family member’s family, of his or her liberty.

It is for the police and the Criminal Law Courts to assist those who are victims of domestic violence and are in need of protection.

But what happens if there is an ADVO involving children or parents in a parenting dispute?

Criminal law proceedings involving family violence that occurs at the same time or prior to a family law parenting dispute are relevant and must be disclosed to the Family Law Courts.

The Family Law Courts take allegations of domestic violence very seriously and will do all things necessary to obtain information from independent third parties to verify or test the allegations. This can include obtaining information from New South Wales Police and the Department of Communities and Justice (formerly DOCs/FACs).

If you have been served with an ADVO, you will need to obtain legal advice as soon as possible to establish whether time with your children will be impacted. In most situations, depending on the terms of the ADVO, time with your children can continue but there may need to be certain conditions put in place.

An example of such conditions may include:

  • That the parent does not consume alcohol or illicit substances during and prior to their time with the children.
  • That the parent’s time with the children occur in a public place and/or during the daytime only.
  • That the parent’s time with the children be supervised by a family member and/or a professional supervision service.

Supervised time is necessary in limited circumstances and is usually a short-term solution.

If professional supervisors are engaged, they will provide a written report as to what occurred during the supervised visit. This can be beneficial to both parties in circumstances where the non-supervised parent can be satisfied that the supervised parent interacted appropriately, and the children were comfortable in their presence.

Also, it can assist the supervised parent from any inaccurate reporting made after a supervised visit by the non-resident parent.

If supervised time is something that needs to occur, it is important that all steps are taken to arrange a supervisor who is either a family member or someone who is known to the children. This will assist in the transition for the children, to ensure they are comfortable. If this is not an option, we can recommend some professional supervision services to you.

If you have criminal proceedings on foot or if they arise during your family law proceedings, we can assist you in finding an appropriate criminal lawyer and work with them to do all things necessary for you to continue to spend time with your children.