Victims of family violence to be protected by proposed new laws

In an effort to protect victims through Family Law court proceedings, the Federal Government has announced proposed new laws to ensure victims of family violence are not personally cross-examined by alleged or substantiated perpetrators. The new laws would also prevent them from being required to cross-examine their alleged perpetrator with self-represented parties to ask questions through an intermediary.

It has been reported that more than half of parenting matters in the Family Law system involve allegations of family violence. The Royal Commission into Family Violence found alleged victims commonly described feelings of re-victimisation during Court procedures as a result of their former partner manipulating court processes to their own ends. Concerns were raised that victims are subject to further trauma by being cross-examined, face-to-face, by perpetrators.

The practice was changed in criminal law and family violence intervention order proceedings in Victoria many years ago. A self-represented Respondent may not personally cross-examine the affected family member or protected person, a child, or a family member of a party to the proceeding. The only exception is if the person the Respondent seeks to examine, is an adult who consents to being cross-examined and the Court decides the cross-examination will not have a harmful impact on that person. Beyond this exception, the Respondent must have a legal representative to conduct the cross-examination.

These changes have widespread support from the legal community.

For advice and assistance with your Family Law matters, please contact our Private Clients team.

This article was written by Brendan Herbert, Principal Lawyer РPrivate Clients.