Is the Family Court system really dealing appropriately with family violence situations?

The Women’s Legal Service say that it is not.

A client of mine recently left her husband of 15 years with her three young children, after he came to bed with a knife, having had one of his regular five bottle binges. Despite this horrendous event she was still contemplating returning to him. She was concerned that seeking spousal maintenance would alert his employer to his violence, ending his employment and therefore eliminating her spousal maintenance entitlement.

Miki Perkins, from The Age, reported on 8 March, through the re-telling of Sarah’s story, that the current Family Law system does not help disadvantaged woman in abusive relationships. Sarah, after years of staying in an abusive relationship, eventually summed up the courage and left husband, a high paid executive working in Melbourne’s CBD. He would often come home from work, committing horrendous violence upon her, including urinating on her, cutting her hair, assaulting her and forcing her to sleep on the couch.

This eventually caused her to flee, even leaving behind her three children in the family home, and being forced to sleep in a donated tent at the local showground for the next three months. The only option was to try use the family law system, a system not geared to assist someone in her position, with barely a dollar to her name. This resulted in a distinctly unfair advantage. Her husband used the system to complicate and prolong the process, ultimately forcing Sarah into a costly eight-year family court battle, rather than a quick easy settlement.

The Women’s Legal Service in Victoria has conducted research into this issue and found that in relation to disadvantaged women, many are walking away from their property entitlements. The trauma, stress and costs involved in attempting to claim their allowance in the current system is just not worth it. This ‘one size fits all’ system, as Perkins refers to it, does not actually ‘fit all’. Researchers say that there should be a more streamlined system for smaller matters, and as well as a system that can adequately deal with such distinct power imbalances between the opposing parties.

If you find yourself in a similar position to Sarah, in an abusive relationship or unsure as to how the system can assist you, contact the family lawyer in Melbourne Rowan Skinner & Associates Lawyers today.


Rowan Skinner

About Rowan Skinner

Rowan Skinner is a highly skilled family lawyer with over 35 years of experience across various legal roles and jurisdictions. Rowan specialises in resolving family law disputes such as divorce, financial settlements, child custody and domestic violence cases. Through his diverse and extensive experience, Rowan has a deep understanding of the complexities and nuances involved in family law. Rowan is a skilled negotiator and litigator who follows a compassionate and client-focused approach which prioritises helping you navigate what can be an emotional and challenging time.