The New Coercive Control Laws in New South Wales

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By Scarlett Southey, Paralegal 

In November 2022, the NSW Parliament passed the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Coercive Control) Bill 2022. This means that from July 2024, coercive control in current and former intimate partner relationships will be a criminal offence in NSW, carrying a maximum penalty of 7 years imprisonment.

What is coercive control?

Coercive control is where an adult intends to coerce or control another individual (the victim) through repeated patterns of physical or non-physical abuse causing harm, instilling fear, intimidation, threatening them, and/or exerting control over the victim or another individual.

Common examples of coercive control in a relationship include:

  • Isolating the victim from friends, family, or other supportive networks;
  • Monitoring their activities and communications, such as phone calls, emails, and text messages;
  • Using threats to the victim’s children, property or pets;
  • Withholding basic needs;
  • Controlling finances by limiting the victim’s access to money or other financial resources;
  • Emotional abuse, such as humiliation, insults, and name-calling;
  • Sexual coercion; and
  • Physical violence or threats.

How does this affect Family Law matters?

As Family Lawyers we often see matters where Family Law issues, such as parenting arrangements and property settlements, intersect with family violence. Coercive control, which falls within the definition of family violence under s 4AB of the Family Law Act 1975, is taken very seriously by the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.

When it comes to parenting arrangements, the Court’s primary objective is to consider the best interest of your children. If coercive control is established and you can show that they will be unsafe and at risk in the care of your former partner, the Court will favour your position in terms of parenting arrangements.

In property settlements, evidence of coercive control does not commonly influence outcomes. However, as per Kennon (1997) 22 Fam LR 1 it may be relevant:

“where there is a course of conduct by one party towards the other during the marriage which is demonstrated to have had a significant adverse impact upon that party’s contributions to the marriage, or to put the other way, to have made his or her contributions significantly more arduous than they ought to have been

Therefore, if coercive control during the relationship has substantially impacted the quality and quantity of the parties’ contributions to the property pool and can be established through evidence, the victim may be entitled to a greater share of the property pool.

How can Mills Oakley help?

Coercive control often leaves victims feeling confused, ashamed, guilty and hesitant to seek help. However, it’s important to understand that support is readily available and there are various resources available to assist victims.

Our Family Law Team is well-versed in this sector of family law and can offer legal advice and representation. We encourage you to reach out, even for a general discussion as to how we can help and what your rights and entitlements are.

For further information, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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