Changes to protect victims of family violence in family law proceedings welcomed

Changes to protect victims of family violence in family law proceedings welcomed

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Protected family home image

We have provided a joint submission on proposed legislation that will protect victims of family violence from having to directly cross-examine or be cross-examined by perpetrators of family violence during family law proceedings.

Associate Director Family Law Gayathri Paramasivam said: ‘We have long advocated for reform to fix what we see as a long-standing problem in the family law system.’

'Around 80 per cent of legally aided family law matters in Australia involve family violence, so this is a significant issue for our clients.'

Associate Director Family Law Gayathri Paramasivam

The submission was made with National Legal Aid (NLA) to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs Inquiry into the Family Law Amendment (Family Violence and Cross-examination of Parties) Bill 2018.

Key recommendations

The NLA submission outlines recommendations to ensure that new legislation effectively protects victims of family violence.

Our key recommendations include:

  • adding an explicit requirement that the court consider whether to apply the ban on direct cross-examination in any proceeding in which family violence has been alleged
  • providing other protections, such as providing evidence by video link, to both witness parties and examining parties, as well as family members or other protected witnesses
  • fully funding legal aid commissions to administer a scheme for providing legal representation when direct cross-examination is banned.

The proposed changes to law would align the Federal family law court system with similar protections afforded to victims of family violence in the Magistrates’ Court in Victoria. 

Laws passed in December 2008 prohibit direct cross-examination in state family violence intervention order matters.

‘These changes will help to foster the confidence of victim survivors, and the community more broadly, in the family law system,’ Ms Paramasivam said. ‘Fixing this problem is an important way of ensuring laws in Australia reflect community expectations and the community’s stance against family violence.'

Victoria Legal Aid funds legal services for both victim survivors and perpetrators of family violence, and family law matters make up a large part of our work. Almost 40 per cent of all legal aid grants in 2016–17 in Victoria were for family and children’s law matters.

Read our submission

Read our joint submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs Inquiry into the Family Law Amendment (Family Violence and Cross-examination of Parties) Bill 2018.  

Also read other submissions we have made, calling for the problem of direct cross-examination in the family law courts to be addressed:

Read about the other work we are doing at Family violence – Our response.

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