New protection at court for domestic violence victims

New protection at court for domestic violence victims

From 10 September 2019, new arrangements begin about the cross-examination of victims of domestic violence in the Family Court and Federal Circuit Courts of Australia.

This is relevant for parties who are self-represented in the Family Court and Federal Circuit Courts of Australia. If a person is acting on their own behalf without a lawyer at a trial, they are prevented from cross-examining the other party, in the following circumstances:

  • There is an allegation of family violence between the person wanting to cross-examine and the witness they are wanting to cross-examine.

And one of the following applies:

  • Either party has been convicted of, or is charged with, an offence involving violence or threat of violence to the other party

Or

  • A family violence order applies to both parties (final order only, not temporary or interim order)

Or

  • An injunction for personal protection of either party has been made under the Family Law Act

Or

  • The court at their discretion makes such an order

If a party finds themselves in this scenario they will have to engage a legal representative to undertake the cross-examination on their behalf. Legal Aid has been provided with further funding to provide assistance to parties, however, the funding from legal aid is still subject to the same merit and financial requirements as all other applications for legal aid.

It is important when advising clients involved in local court applications for domestic violence orders of the consequences of a final domestic violence protection order being made, if they are also involved in Family Court or Federal Circuit Court proceedings. The common practice of parties consenting to a final domestic violence protection order without admissions to resolve matters will need to be considered in light of this new legislation.

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