In a long overdue announcement, the Federal Government has introduced new proposed laws to protect victims of family violence from being directly questioned by their alleged perpetrator.
There has been ongoing criticism of the Family Court system as the current law allows an alleged perpetrator who is representing themselves to directly cross-examine their ex-partner or spouse who is the victim of family violence.
Despite our better understanding of the impact of family violence and a number of other changes to Family Law in recent times, the fact that a victim can be questioned by the very person that abused them remains an unacceptable and disappointing part of the Family Law.
The proposed changes to the law will introduce a new section into the Family Law Act which will prevent victims of family violence from being cross-examined by an alleged perpetrator who is self-represented. Instead, the Court will appoint a suitably qualified third-party to conduct the cross-examination on the alleged perpetrator’s behalf.
These are important changes to Family Law. In Family Law matters parties are frequently self-represented and the current cross-examination procedure can be used as a further deliberate act of violence by an alleged perpetrator to re-traumatise a victim.
In addition to this, the mere fact that there is the possibility a victim may be questioned by their alleged perpetrator may prevent victims of family violence from coming forward or commencing Court proceedings due to their fear of being questioned by their former partner.
Most importantly, the fear and trauma that a victim may experience can affect the quality of the evidence they are able to give to the Court. This makes it harder for the Court to determine what is in the best interests of the children, which is their paramount concern.
These proposed changes to the Family Law Act are definitely a step in the right direction to better protect victims of family violence, however, there is always the opportunity for more work to be done.
If you require assistance with your Family Law matter or family violence matter then you should contact one of our solicitors at East Coast Family Lawyers today.
Please keep in mind that if you or someone you know is impacted by domestic or family violence you can always call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732.