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The Law & You: How is COVID-19 affecting domestic violence?

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With COVID-19 we’re expected to #stayhome and #staysafe in line with government restrictions.

However, when domestic violence is involved, the ‘stay safe’ part of the equation can be problematic. Home for thousands across Australia is not a safe haven. It’s a dangerous place.

So how do you communicate with your lawyer if you’re in an abusive relationship during this pandemic?

Partner Debra Parker says Watts McCray Lawyers remains open and has the technology and processes in place to assist.

We’re operating in line with the special measures the Family Courts have put in place to protect the community and Court staff.

The Courts have also established a special national Court list dedicated to dealing with urgent family law disputes directly resulting from COVID-19.

Here are Debra’s tips for dealing with domestic violence during the pandemic and beyond.

In immediate danger?

Always dial 000 in cases of an emergency.

Consider contacting Domestic Violence Crisis Service ACT if in danger: 02 6280 0900.

DVCS also has a lifesaving ‘Quick Escape’ button on its website in case an abusive partner unexpectedly walks in while you’re on their page.

How do I reach out if I can’t visit for a private consultation?

You can have a one-on-one telephone consultation with a family law specialist, at a time that suits. We’re set up for video conferencing like Zoom or Skype. If you have an email account and a camera, we can send you an invite.

Is a telephone or video consult as effective as a face-to-face meeting?

Yes. Our lawyers are trained to listen carefully, ask the right questions, communicate clearly and provide advice across all communication methods.

How to I make the most out of my telephone or video consult?

To take advantage of every minute, we recommend you complete our easy to use and secure intake form which gives your lawyer a better idea of your situation and a chance to start developing ways to assist you.

Will my privacy be protected if I video conference?

We understand that perpetrators routinely use technology to maintain control over victims.

It’s important to understand that technology platforms are only as secure as the computer or device being used to access them. We’ve put all possible measure in place on our end to protect you.

From your end, it’s wise to:

  1. Stay off social media if possible.
  2. Learn how to view websites in private and understand how to clear your web history, cookies and shut down browser windows. Instructions on this, and other safety tips, can be found in the Safety Planning Guide prepared by Domestic Violence Crisis Service (DVCS) and these instructions on how to clear cookies.
  3. Use an encrypted messaging app like WhatsApp.
  4. Set up a new email account and don’t access it on shared devices.
  5. Change passwords on all devices and social media accounts. Put a passcode on your phones.
  6. Turn off Bluetooth and GPS when not using.
  7. Ensure photos uploaded to social media aren’t geo-tagging your location.

Please raise any concern you have about communication with us safely in the form or when you contact us.

How much does it cost to have a telephone or video consultation?

Watts McCray Canberra offers a special fixed rate of $385 for an initial consultation of up to 1 hour and an additional 20 minutes extra for free for HerCanberra readers.

Worried about your state of mind?

Don’t hesitate to call:

  • Lifeline: 13 11 44
  • 1800RESPECT: 1800 373 732
  • Your GP

Watts McCray is one of Australia’s largest firms of family and relationship lawyers.  We have many family law specialists on our team, backed by years of experience.

Our lawyers have the skills to provide you with sound, practical advice about issues such as relationship changes and separation, property and financial matters, parenting arrangements after separation, child support, divorce and family violence matters.

Watts McCray Partner Debra Parker.

Watts McCray also provides legal help if you want to resolve matters without having to go through Court. They help with negotiation, mediation, collaboration and arbitration services as well as the traditional Court litigation process. We also help with estate planning and wills.

Call them in Canberra on (02) 6257 6347 for more information and for tailored services to meet your legal needs. 

Watts McCray has recently been awarded with ‘Best Law Firm of the Year—Australia’ in the Lawyer’s International’s Legal 100, 2020 awards.

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