Understanding How Stalking Affects Family Law Cases in Queensland

Family violence is a critical issue that affects individuals and families across Queensland. Stalking, often overlooked, is a significant component of family violence that can have profound psychological and physical impacts on victims. If your ex spouse is stalking you, there could be serious consequences on the outcomes of custody battles, divorce proceedings and property settlement. As family lawyers, we are experienced in dealing with a number of domestic violence matters with compassion and legal expertise.

This article explores the legal framework surrounding stalking within the context of family violence in Queensland, providing victims with knowledge and resources to seek protection and justice.


Stalking: A Form of Family Violence

The Legal Definition and Recognition

In Queensland, stalking is recognised as both a criminal offence and a form of family violence. It involves behaviours that intimidate or harass, including following, contacting, or surveilling someone without consent

In February 2023, the Queensland parliament approved the Domestic and Family Violence Protection (Combating Coercive Control) and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2023. This legislation introduced amendments to the Criminal Code 1899 and the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2008, aligning them with contemporary insights into patterns of abusive conduct. Among these modifications was the renaming of the previous offence of stalking to 'stalking, intimidation, harassment, and abuse'. 

The law’s broad definition aims to protect individuals from a wide range of stalking and cyberstalking behaviours, acknowledging the severe impact these actions can have when they occur within domestic settings.

Examples of Stalking behaviours:

  • Following, loitering near, watching, or approaching a person.
  • Following or loitering near someone’s home or workplace
  • Unwanted communication through calls, texts, or social media
  • Using technology to track someone’s location
  • Monitoring online activities
  • Creating fake profiles to interact or harass the victim indirectly
  • Leaving offensive material where it will be found by the victim.
  • Publishing offensive material online or giving it directly to the victim.
  • Engaging in intimidating, harassing, threatening, or abusive acts against the victim, whether involving violence or not.


What Can You Do If Your Ex Is Stalking You

If you are experiencing stalking behaviour from an ex-partner, it's crucial to take immediate action to protect yourself. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Keep detailed records of the stalker's behaviour, including dates, times, locations, and descriptions of incidents.
  • Collect any evidence, such as text messages, emails, or social media communications.
  • Report the matter to the police as soon as possible and provide them with all relevant information.
  • Seek protective actions from the police, which may include obtaining a Domestic Violence Order (DVO) or applying for a protection order.
  • Find a safe place to make a call to the police if you're in immediate danger, and stay on the line until help arrives.
  • Cooperate with the police and provide them with any additional information they may need to investigate the matter thoroughly.


Legal Protections Against Stalking

Protection Orders

Queensland law provides victims of stalking, particularly within domestic environments, the ability to obtain protection orders, sometimes referred to as restraining orders. These orders are crucial tools that legally restrict the stalker’s ability to come near or contact the victim. Types of orders include:

  1. Domestic Violence Orders (DVOs): Specifically designed to protect individuals from family members or intimate partners who exhibit stalking behaviours.
  2. Peace and Good Behaviour Orders: Apply in broader contexts but can be essential for victims of stalking outside intimate relationships.


Applying for a Protection Order

Victims can apply for protection orders through the Magistrates’ Court. The process includes:

  • Completing an application form
  • Providing evidence of stalking behaviours
  • Attending a court hearing where the order can be granted


The Importance of Documenting Stalking

Building a Legal Case

Documenting instances of stalking is vital for legal actions. Detailed records can substantiate claims and support the application for protection orders or criminal charges. Victims should keep:

  • Dates and times of stalking incidents
  • Screenshots of unwanted communications
  • Records of any encounters or sightings of the stalker
Evidence for Family Law Matters

Evidence of stalking can also impact family law cases, influencing decisions on custody, divorce, and property settlements. Demonstrating a pattern of stalking can highlight risks to the safety of family members, informing court judgments.

Given the complexity of these matters and the evolution of case law, victims of domestic violence or stalking contemplating separation and property settlement should seek detailed legal advice tailored to their circumstances. 

If you have recently separated and your ex husband or wife is stalking you, contacting lawyers experienced in family law can provide guidance on how to present evidence effectively and navigate the property settlement process in light of these considerations​.


Penalties and Consequences for Stalkers

The penalties for stalking in Queensland reflect the offence's severity, with convictions leading to substantial imprisonment terms. These penalties aim to deter stalkers and protect victims from further harm.

Impact of Convictions

Allegations and instances of family violence and domestic violence have a profound impact on family law cases and their potential outcomes.

Stalking carries significant legal repercussions, with the maximum penalty being five years imprisonment. However, in cases involving aggravated factors such as violence, possession of a weapon, or breaches of domestic violence or restraining orders, the maximum penalty increases to seven years imprisonment.

Moreover, even if the accused isn’t convicted, the judge or magistrate presiding over the case holds the authority to issue a restraining order at their discretion or upon request by the prosecutor or an interested party.


Impact on Custody Decisions

The primary focus of the court in custody matters is the child's well-being and safety. Stalking behaviour can jeopardise this, reflecting poorly on the perpetrator's judgement and ability to ensure a secure environment for the child. Such actions raise concerns about the stalker’s mental health, respect for personal boundaries, and their overall capacity to look after the child's welfare responsibly. The court, prioritising the child’s safety, may restrict or supervise the accused parent's access to ensure the child's physical and emotional security.


Influence on Divorce Proceedings

Stalking can profoundly affect divorce outcomes, particularly concerning asset division and spousal support. It often signifies a pattern of domination and manipulation, skewing the court's view of the marriage dynamics. Recognising the victim's need for autonomy and safety, the court might rule in their favour, granting them a larger share of assets or increased support to facilitate independence and recovery from the ordeal.


Consideration in Property Settlements

Property settlements can also be influenced by demonstrated stalking behaviour. The court may consider the emotional and psychological toll on the victim, potentially adjusting the division of assets to account for their recovery and future stability. In extreme cases, the court might order additional financial support to compensate for the trauma experienced.


Considerations in Protection Orders

Convictions or proven allegations of stalking can lead to the issuance or extension of protection orders, imposing further restrictions on the offender’s behaviour. Violation of existing protection orders through continued stalking not only compounds the legal consequences for the offender but also reinforces the court’s protective stance towards the victim. Such violations are treated seriously, often resulting in criminal charges.


Support Services and Seeking Help

Safety Planning and Support Services

Victims of stalking are encouraged to seek out support services that offer:

  • Safety planning advice
  • Legal assistance
  • Counselling and psychological support

These services can provide immediate and long-term assistance to victims, helping them navigate the legal system and recover from their experiences.

Stalking is a grave concern within the context of family violence in Queensland, necessitating a comprehensive legal and support framework to protect victims. If you or someone you know is experiencing stalking as part of family violence, it is crucial to seek professional advice and support immediately.


Can A Family Lawyer Help If My Ex Is Stalking Me?

If you're experiencing stalking behaviour from an ex-partner or any other form of domestic violence, Pullos Lawyers is here to offer compassionate support and expert legal guidance. We understand how distressing and frightening these situations can be, and we're committed to helping you navigate through them with care and understanding.

Our experienced family law team will listen to your concerns, provide you with personalised advice, and work tirelessly to ensure your safety and well-being. Whether you need assistance obtaining a protection order, or navigating legal proceedings. Contact Pullos Lawyers today to schedule a confidential consultation.

If you need additional help, DV Connect provides a 24-hour state-wide service to women and their children experiencing domestic violence.