Part 9 of the Family Law Act deals with Protection Orders. These orders are designed to prevent family violence and to ensure the safety of spouses and children.


Family Violence is defined in section 1 as:


(a) physical abuse of a family member, including forced confinement or deprivation of the necessities of life, but not including the use of reasonable force to protect oneself or others from harm,


(b) sexual abuse of a family member,


(c) attempts to physically or sexually abuse a family member,


(d) psychological or emotional abuse of a family member, including


(i)   intimidation, harassment, coercion or threats, including threats respecting other persons, pets or property,

(ii)   unreasonable restrictions on, or prevention of, a family member’s financial or personal autonomy,

(iii)   stalking or following of the family member, and

(iv)   intentional damage to property, and


(e) in the case of a child, direct or indirect exposure to family violence


A protection order can be obtained without giving the offending party notice of the court application. Section 184(1) of the act sets out the factors a court will consider:


184  (1) In determining whether to make an order under this Part, the court must consider at least the following risk factors:


(a) any history of family violence by the family member against whom the order is to be made;


(b) whether any family violence is repetitive or escalating;


(c) whether any psychological or emotional abuse constitutes, or is evidence of, a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour directed at the at-risk family member;


(d) the current status of the relationship between the family member against whom the order is to be made and the at-risk family member, including any recent separation or intention to separate;


(e) any circumstance of the family member against whom the order is to be made that may increase the risk of family violence by that family member, including substance abuse, employment or financial problems, mental health problems associated with a risk of violence, access to weapons, or a history of violence;


(f) the at-risk family member’s perception of risks to his or her own safety and security;


(g) any circumstance that may increase the at-risk family member’s vulnerability, including pregnancy, age, family circumstances, health or economic dependence.


It is noteworthy that the Family Law Act expands the definition of Family Violence to include physical, sexual, financial, psychological and emotional abuse and a child’s direct or indirect exposure to the abuse.


Family Law Act, [SBC 2011] CHAPTER 25


Deborah A. Todd
Deborah A. Todd