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Coercive Control And Your Legal Options

Coercive control is a pervasive issue within intimate relationships, often leading to significant harm for victims and their families.

In the domestic context, it refers to a pattern of behaviours used by a person to dominate, manipulate, and intimidate their partner. Coercive control operates through psychological, emotional, and/or financial means, exerting power and control over every aspect of the victim’s life. This can include isolating the victim from friends and family, controlling their finances, monitoring their movements, and undermining their self-esteem. 

The Family Law Act 1975 (the Act) defines family violence broadly to encompass not only physical violence but also emotional abuse, financial abuse, and other forms of coercive control. 

From July 2024, coercive control will also be a criminal offence in New South Wales (NSW). This applies to offending after this date. A perpetrator will be able to be prosecuted for repeated patterns of both physical and non-physical abuse used to hurt, care, intimidate, threaten or control someone. 

In addition to the criminal channels available after July 2024, victims of coercive control and other types of Family Violence have several legal options:

  1. Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders (ADVOs): Victims can apply for an ADVO (commonly referred to overseas as “restraining order”) to protect themselves and their children from further harm. ADVOs can include conditions such as prohibiting the perpetrator from contacting or approaching the victim, attending their home or workplace, or stalking them. In NSW, police officers have the authority to issue provisional or interim ADVOs on the spot in certain circumstances. 
  2.  Other Family Court Orders: In cases involving children, victims can seek parenting orders to ensure the safety and well-being of their children. These orders can include provisions for supervised time, restricted time, or no time arrangements. A parenting order can also include an injunction under section 68B of the Act for the personal protection for the child, the child’s parent, a person with parenting order in respect of the child, or a personal who has parental responsibility for the child. 
Identifying and proving coercive control in legal proceedings can be challenging due to its covert nature and the absence of visible evidence. Consider the following pointers to prepare for a legal process:
  • Gather evidence: Document any incidents of violence including coercive control, such as dates, times, and details of what occurred. Save any relevant communications, such as emails, text messages, or voicemails. Take photos of any injuries or damage caused by the perpetrator. 
  • Keep a journal: Maintain a journal documenting your experiences of coercive control, including how it has impacted you emotionally, physically, and financially. This can serve as a detailed record of the abuse and its effects on you and your family. 
  • Obtain Legal Advice: Seek advice from a specialist family lawyer. A lawyer can provide guidance on your legal rights, options, and the steps involved in seeking legal protection, such as initiating family law proceedings. 
  • Safety Planning: Develop a safety plan to protect yourself during and after legal process. Identify safe places to go if you need to leave your home quickly and have a plan in place for contacting emergency services or support networks in case of danger. 
  • Compile Important Documents: Gather important documents, such as identification, financial records, marriage certificates, and evidence of ownership or possession of property. Keep these documents in a safe and accessible location, as they may be required during legal proceedings. 
  • Seek Support: Surround yourself with a supportive network of friends, family, and professionals who can provide emotional support and practical assistance throughout the legal process. Considering joining support groups or attending counselling to help you cope with the challenges of seeking legal protection. 
  • Prioritise Your Safety: Above all else, prioritise your safety and well-being throughout the legal process. If you feel unsafe or threatened at any time, do not hesitate to seek help from the police. 
If you or someone you know is going through these issues, Allwright Bourke Lawyers & Conveyancing is here to offer expert legal support. Our dedicated team can guide you through the complexities, ensuring the best outcome for you and your loved ones. 

You are not alone — reach out to Allwright Bourke today for the legal support you need. Your safety and well-being matter, and we are here to help you every step of the way.  Contact us by phone (1300 225 297) or by email (

If You're Looking For Family Law Assistance, Speak To Our Team.

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