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Domestic violence in long-term relationships – know the signs of abuse


Attwood Marshall Lawyers have seen a significant increase in new family matters during the COVID-19 pandemic. In times of disaster, domestic violence rates tend to rise. When you combine financial insecurity, health issues and emotional stress with isolation, it’s a tragedy waiting to happen, explains Attwood Marshall Lawyers Family Law Special Counsel, Michael Twohill. We are here to help assist anyone affected by domestic and family violence.

Freedom from domestic violence is everyone’s human right

Domestic violence can be in the form of physical, verbal, emotional, sexual or financial abuse and can involve a spouse, intimate partner, children, parents or the elderly. It is one of the most underreported crimes in Australia.

During the pandemic, there have been increased calls to helplines and reports of domestic violence, including an 11% increase in calls to 1800RESPECT and a 26% increase in calls to Mensline. Google reported a 75% increase in internet searches relating to support for domestic violence. It is likely that these increased calls and searches are only the tip of the iceberg.

Identifying domestic violence in long-term relationships

It is important for everyone to know the signs of abuse and be able to identify an act of domestic violence. Many people do not identify themselves as abusers or victims of domestic violence.

In most cases, where violence has been occurring within the relationship for quite some time, the perpetrator doesn’t understand what they are doing is an act of domestic violence. Victims may excuse the behaviour of their partner and simply dismiss violent acts as a “one-off” or rare event. A victim may accept that the behaviour of the perpetrator is normal in all relationships as the victim may not know any different.

Whilst the aggrieved person needs to be given support, the perpetrator also needs help in order to address his/her behaviour. There are various organisations that can help both victims and those inflicting violence on another.

Cycles of abuse can form in long-term relationships. Disputes can happen during which tensions rise and a violent act is committed, followed by a period of reconciliation or peace. Over time the violent acts begin to happen more frequently and become more serious. Victims may feel trapped in violent situations and not seek the urgent help they need.

If you identify your partner’s behaviour as an act of intimidation, harassment or physical violence, you don’t have to tolerate it and you need to act to protect yourself. It can be common for victims to stay in an abusive relationship because of fear of the unknown or fear that they cannot survive independently.

In many cases, children can be involved and may witness violent behaviour. It is imperative to protect children who can suffer from psychological damage as a result of what is going on in their household.

Domestic violence can also be in the form of coercive controlling behaviour and/or financial abuse. This type of domestic violence quite often develops over a long period of time during the relationship. The perpetrator may not appreciate the effects and consequences of such behaviour and maybe acting in a way that they observed or experienced in their own family or upbringing.

Steps to take if you are experiencing domestic violence

If you are experiencing physical violence, the most important step to take is to contact the police as soon as possible. If the police are of the view that the act of domestic violence is severe, they have the power to act immediately.

Police can issue a protection order on the spot which has the same effect as a Court order. A Police Protection Order can relieve the victim’s stress and allow people to be protected at the time of incident.

If issued with an order, the perpetrator must be on good behaviour and keep the peace towards the other person and cease any act of violence. There may be additional conditions the police include in a protection order based on what requirements they believe are necessary to protect the victim.

In serious incidents, the perpetrator will be removed from the premises and will have to appear in Court, usually within one week of the event. The perpetrator is given this time to obtain legal advice.

It is very important that you take the first step and discuss what is going on with someone experienced in this area. Help is there – you just need to have the courage to take that first step!

A private application for a Domestic Violence Order

A person can apply for a domestic violence order themselves, or have a lawyer, friend or family member apply on their behalf.

Attwood Marshall Lawyers are involved in many private applications for domestic violence orders. We act quickly for clients who need protection. For people involved in serious domestic violence situations, our team can file applications by e-filing and have the application listed before the court without the parties having to go to court. In urgent cases the court will hear the application by telephone and on an ex parte basis (without the other party being present for the hearing).

Responding to a domestic violence order

When issued with a protection order, the respondent must appear in court and will be given the opportunity to agree to the order without admission.

If the respondent is not prepared to agree to an order in the first occasion, the magistrate will usually make a temporary order. The magistrate will then make orders for documents to be relied upon by each party to support their case to be prepared and filed in court and list a hearing date where the matter will be heard and all parties can have their say.

If a respondent feels the domestic abuse allegations are false or misleading, he/she will be able to argue their case when the matter is heard in court.

We are involved in many matters before the court where we act on behalf of the Respondent. In many cases we are able to negotiate a good outcome for the respondent for the benefit of both parties as well as for the benefit of the children if the parties have children.

How can Attwood Marshall Lawyers help someone looking to get out of a violent relationship?

If you are experiencing domestic or family violence, our team will invite you for an initial consultation to discuss your circumstances. From this discussion, we can then determine what type of protection orders may be needed.

For urgent matters where physical violence has taken place, we direct the client to contact the police or we can prepare and file a private application for an urgent protection order, e-file it, and seek to have it listed for urgent hearing before a magistrate. We assist our clients through the entire process.

Our team arrange for communication with the partner at a time that is appropriate so that the matter can be resolved either in court or as early as possible. We handle all negotiations to resolve the issues between the parties.

In most cases, it is not just the domestic violence matter that needs to be resolved. There may be jointly held assets to be regarded, as well as arrangements for children. We can obtain Domestic Violence Protection Orders which will include the children as protected persons but we can also then assist the parties to negotiate terms in the order that will allow the children to have contact with, and spend time with, the parent who has the order made against them.

It is our goal to resolve matters between parties in a way that does not cause conflict. As lawyers, we are meant to be the utility used by the parties to reach an agreement, not the cause of the inflammation of the conflict between them. If you are in a situation where you are not comfortable and feel you are being physically, emotionally or financially abused, there is help out there.

Any act of violent behaviour, emotional abuse or financial abuse, is not okay. Anyone suffering from abuse should reach out when it is safe to do so and break the cycle.

If you are a Respondent

If you are the respondent named in a domestic violence application, don’t despair. We can explain the legislation to you in simple English, become involved and assist you to negotiate the matter with as little conflict as possible.

Our experienced family law team is ready to help parties seeking legal advice and fast legal action. Contact Family Law Department Manager, Donna Tolley, on direct line 07 5506 8241, email or phone 1800 621 071 any time. In many cases we offer a free initial phone consultation to discuss your matter.

Support Services

There are various organisations who provide support to those in domestic violence situations:

  • 1800RESPECT is a confidential information, counselling and support service, open 24 hours to support people impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence and abuse. Call 1800 737 732.
  • National No to Violence Mens Referral Line – Men seeking help for their behaviour can live chat 7 days a week at or find out more information about support services. Call 1300 766 491.
  • MensLine Australia – A telephone and online counselling service offering support for Australian men, whether they be using violence or experiencing violence. The service is available any time, from anywhere. MensLine Australia is funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services. Call 1300 789 978.
  • Lifeline – Access to 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services. Call 13 11 14.
  • The Family Relationship Advice Line – A national telephone service that helps families affected by relationship or separation issues. Call 1800 050 321 Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm, Saturday 10am to 4pm (local time).
  • DVConnect Womensline – DVConnect Womensline is Queensland’s only 24 hour, 7 days a week, 365 days a year crisis response telephone helpline. The service helps respond to the immediate safety needs of women experiencing domestic violence. Call 1800 811 811.
  • DVConnect Mensline – DVConnect Mensline is a confidential telephone counselling, referral, information and support service for Queenslanders identifying as male who may be experiencing or using domestic and family violence. The service is available 9am until midnight, 7 days a week. Call 1800 600 636.

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Michael Twohill

Michael Twohill

Special Counsel
Family Law

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The contents of this article are considered accurate as at the date of publication. The information contained in this article does not constitute legal advice and is of a general nature only. Readers should seek legal advice about their specific circumstances. 

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