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Intimate Partner Violence and Family Law

A woman sitting on a couch

Intimate Partner Violence, hereafter “IPV” is also referred to as domestic violence or family violence and is not limited to physical violence but emotional violence, sexual violence, abuse (verbal, financial or otherwise) and includes coercion. One might argue that IPV is a social and criminal issue and not a family law issue. This is simply not the case as IPV is an issue that impacts not only victims but their families as well. Additionally, intimate partner violence impacts every decision within a family law file. A history of IPV might impact whether or not a lawyer suggests a particular alternative dispute resolution process or not or whether a court implements safeguards during a parent’s parenting time or even whether shared decision-making responsibility is appropriate.

Intimate Partner Violence in the Context of Family Law

In the context of family law, the issue of intimate partner violence has become so prevalent that the Divorce Act has been amended to not only recognize it but to also address how it should be considered when determining how to resolve family law disputes. Section 2(1) of the Divorce Act defines family violence as “any conduct, whether or not the conduct constitutes a criminal offence, by a family member towards another family member, that is violent or threatening or that constitutes a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour or that causes that other family member to fear for their own safety or for that of another person — and in the case of a child, the direct or indirect exposure to such conduct.”

While the law has made strides to recognize this issue, it is important to note that, understandably, not all victims of IPV might be willing to share their experiences. This is because one might feel hesitant to take action against their abuser. Disclosing one’s history of intimate partner violence can come with several emotions, including guilt, embarrassment and/or shame. One might not feel inclined to disclose these details when consulting with a lawyer or even when drafting their Family Law application material. However, if there is a history of family violence, it is important to note this as lawyers can tailor their advice to your situation and even provide additional resources and supports to assist you and your family.

Furthermore, disclosure of IPV in family law applications is essential as the relief sought in situations where domestic violence is present typically differs from other family law proceedings.

This relief may include:

1) Restraining Orders;

2) Parenting Orders;

3) Exclusive possession of the matrimonial home;

4) Spousal support

Accessing legal information and assistance can be a beneficial and essential step towards healing, not only for victims of IPV but their children as well. At INB Family Law, we aim to ensure that those impacted by intimate partner violence feel both safe and supported when seeking our team’s assistance with their family law matters. If you or someone you know is a victim of intimate partner violence, please call us at 905-215-1905 to book a consultation or to learn more.

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