New laws to protect victims of family violence in the family law courts welcomed

New laws to protect victims of family violence in the family law courts welcomed

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Protected family home image

We welcome a Bill introduced into Federal Government today which would protect victims of family violence from having to directly cross-examine or be cross-examined by perpetrators of family violence during family law proceedings.

Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) has long advocated for changes that will fix what it sees 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

‘In family court disputes, a victim of family violence can be made to sit in the witness box and be directly cross-examined by their ex-partner, which can re-traumatise victim survivors.

‘Victims of family violence have also been expected to face their ex-partner directly and cross-examine them about the details of the violence,’ Ms Paramasivam said.

The proposed changes to law would align the Federal family law court system with similar changes adopted by the Magistrates’ Court in Victoria. 

In the state criminal and civil systems, laws were passed in December 2008 that prohibit direct cross-examination in 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 reflecting the community’s stance against family violence.'

VLA 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 submissions

Read the 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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