Case Study: CALD Client & Allegations of ViolenceNick Richards FDRP LL.B MBA GDLP DMgmt MQLS
A Malaysian woman approached us for FDR. She came to Australia 8 years ago to be with her Australian citizen partner. They have one child (6 years old). She wants to separate from her partner due to a history of violence. All of her family is in Malaysia and she is fearful as her partner has told her that if she leaves the relationship she will be deported, will lose the child and won’t get any property.
How would our practice approach this woman’s request for family dispute resolution?
We would make initial contact with the Malaysian woman to understand if there is an immediate threat to her life and/or her child’s life. The FDRP would also seek to understand whether the woman required an interpreter to ensure she would be able to participate in the FDR process or if additional assistance is required (CALD referral). Additionally, as the lady has no family in Australia and is concerned about having access to finances, makes her considerably vulnerable, putting her in the upper risk category being exposed to a greater risk of family violence, in which case an assessment/intake is necessary.
Once the introductories have taken place, an intake would be undertaken to identify whether the case is appropriate for FDR and to make an assessment as to the risk of family violence and the severity should it occur. The two key elements we would focus on initially would be safety and capacity.
Safety risk factors would be determined by asking inter alia, the following:
- Does an obsessive jealousy or preoccupation with the partner exist?
- Is there an excessive sense of ownership, entitlement to absolute loyalty and obedience?
- Is there a pattern of controlling behaviours such as social, financial, cultural or spiritual?
- Has there been any damage to property?
- Has there been excessive monitoring of her and/or the children?
- Has there been any psychological cruelty (to pets or otherwise)?
- Has she been subject to threats be it physical harm or murder?
- Has the children or any family members in Malaysia been subject to threats of physical harm or murder?
- Has there been threats of suicide?
- Has there been assaults in the past?
- Has the child been exposed to family violence?
- Does the partner have access to weapons?
- Is there any untreated mental illnesses?
- Is there a history of drug or alcohol abuse?
We would also consider the factors as noted above, that may make her at higher risk which include her social isolation from her family and whether she has limited access to funds.
The three overarching factors to determine the Malaysian woman’s capacity to participate in dispute resolution are:
- The potency of the violence, abuse, danger and risk factors;
- The pattern of coercion, domination and control as well as the manipulation and the level of stress caused by these behaviours on the child and the lady;
- Where the partner as the primary perpetrator, rather than it being mutual, together with the frequency, and the seriousness of the effects of the perpetrators violent behaviour on the children.
What assistance would this woman need?
Based on the basic scenario above, the woman is concerned about losing the child, not receiving property and being deported. After conducting the intake and identifying whether family violence exists, and its anticipated severity should it occur the following would be undertaken.
When violence and/or capacity has been determined as unacceptable an FDRP can make steps towards safety planning measures most appropriate for the clients circumstances, which could include escape planning in the event of a physical threat to either her or her child. In the event that the risks were determined as low risk and the matter proceeds to FDR, then session planning should be considered, where the practitioner can assess whether certain arrangements should be taken for the safety of the parties such as engaging the use of shuttle, telephone, co-mediators, e-mediation, legal representatives and support persons inclusion).
We would make some initial referrals:
- A referral should be given to her for legal advice for the property and child aspects.
- A referral to either a migration agent or migration lawyer should be arranged to provide advice on and to alleviate concerns as to the threats and actual likelihood of deportation.
- As the woman is from Malaysia a referral to an organisation that provides services for women from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities to assist her, given her foreign background.
Depending on the outcome of the risk assessment a referral to a crisis accommodation support service may be necessary.
We may also communicate information about other relevant referral programs with suitably qualified practitioners that may be able to assist in the FDR process for the family. Information provided in the scenario is quite brief as to the families circumstances, however an FDRP may refer the Malaysian woman to practitioners that specifically deal with:
- mental health (suspected and diagnosed);
- counsellors (family, child and relationship);
- religion; and
- self-represented parties.
Additionally, the FDR practitioner should also make use of informational materials and self-help courses that deal with separation and domestic violence.
Note: The above is not legal advice and is general information only.