Family Violence & Abuse

Understanding the Impact of Family Violence in Family Law

Written by Russell Alexander / (905) 655-6335

Family violence is a grave concern that deeply impacts the dynamics of family law, especially in cases related to parenting and child welfare. Judges are mandated to consider the presence and repercussions of family violence meticulously. We review the multifaceted nature of family violence, its legal implications, and the support mechanisms available for those affected.

Detailed Definition of Family Violence

Family violence is not confined to physical aggression but encompasses a spectrum of behaviours that instil fear, exert undue control, or inflict harm. It’s crucial to recognize these behaviours as constitutive of family violence even when they don’t align with criminal offenses. The legal framework categorizes family violence into several distinct forms:

  • Violent or Threatening Behaviour: Any form of physical violence or aggression, including but not limited to hitting, shoving, or using weapons. Threatening behaviour can also include verbal threats, menacing behaviour, or any action that is intended to instil fear or intimidate a family member.
  • Coercive and Controlling Behaviour: This involves patterns of behaviour that aim to dominate or control another family member’s life choices or actions. It can manifest as psychological abuse, emotional manipulation, or financial control, significantly impeding the victim’s ability to make independent decisions.
  • Inducing Fear for Safety: Actions or behaviours that cause a family member to fear for their own safety or the safety of others. This encompasses direct threats, patterns of intimidation, or any form of behaviour that creates an environment of fear and uncertainty.
  • Impact on Children: The legal system recognizes that children can be victims of family violence, not only through direct involvement but also through indirect exposure. Witnessing violence, living in a hostile environment, or being subjected to emotional abuse can have detrimental long-term effects on a child’s psychological and emotional well-being.

Legal Implications and Protective Measures

The judiciary takes the issue of family violence seriously, particularly in cases concerning the welfare of children. Judges are required to consider evidence of family violence meticulously and assess its potential impact on children’s physical and emotional well-being. Protective measures and legal remedies can include:

  • Restraining orders to protect victims from imminent harm
  • Custody arrangements that prioritize the safety and best interests of the child
  • Supervised visitation to ensure a safe environment for child-parent interactions
  • Mandatory counselling or intervention programs for perpetrators of family violence

Resources and Support for Victims of Family Violence

Victims of family violence often require immediate assistance and long-term support, some of the available resources include:

  • Legal Assistance: Information on obtaining restraining orders, filing for custody, and navigating the legal system to ensure safety and justice.
  • Support Services: Details of shelters, hotlines, and counselling services that offer immediate safety and long-term psychological support.
  • Community Resources: Information on local organizations and services that provide practical assistance, such as housing, financial aid, and childcare.

In family law, the issue of family violence demands urgent attention and a comprehensive approach to ensure the safety and well-being of affected individuals, especially children.

Daniela Di Rezze, Associate Lawyer

It is important that we recognize the breadth of family violence, its profound impact on families, and the importance of accessible support systems.

Victims are encouraged to seek help through the myriad of resources available, ensuring their safety and initiating a journey toward recovery and empowerment. Understanding one’s legal rights and the protections afforded by the law is a crucial step in this process, paving the way for a future free from violence and fear.

*this article was based, in part, on A Guide to Process for Family Cases at the Superior Court of Justice Ontario Superior Court of Justice (October 2023)

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About the author

Russell Alexander

Russell Alexander is the Founder & Senior Partner of Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers.