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Direct cross-examination in family law matters – Findings from new research
In July, 2017, the Australian Government, Attorney-General’s Department released proposed amendments to the Family Law Act aimed at ensuring “that victims of family violence are not put in a position where they are personally cross-examined by alleged perpetrators, or required themselves to cross-examine their alleged perpetrator” (Media Release, 9 May 2017). The proposed amendments contained in the Family Law Amendment (Family Violence and Cross-examination of Parties) Bill 2018 are currently before Parliament.
In conjunction with the reintroduction of this bill, the Australian Institute of Family Studies has released new research regarding the prevalence of direct cross-examination involving self-represented litigants in family law proceedings characterised by family violence. This presentation will outline key findings from this research, which was commissioned by the Attorney General’s Department to inform the process of legislative amendments. Insight will be provided into both the extent of direct cross-examination involving self-represented litigants in family law hearings where there is alleged or substantiated family violence, and the factual and legal context characterising these family law matters.
Dr Rachel Carson is a socio-legal researcher with expertise in family law and qualitative research about family law disputes. After practising as a family lawyer, Rachel worked as a researcher in family law at the Melbourne Law School (University of Melbourne) and was awarded a Melbourne Research Scholarship to undertake her PhD in this field of research at the University of Melbourne.
Since joining the Family Law and Family Violence team at the Australian Institute of Family Studies in June 2012, Rachel has worked on a range of projects, including the Independent Children’s Lawyer Study and the Evaluation of the 2012 Family Violence Amendments Project. Rachel was the lead researcher on the recently completed Children and Young People in Separated Families: Family Law System Experiences and Needs project, together with the Institute’s Direct Cross-examination in Family Law Matters Study.
Rachel has contributed to the Institute’s elder abuse scoping studies and is currently working on the Elder Abuse National Research – Strengthening the Evidence Base – Stage 1 research program commissioned by the Australian Government, Attorney-General’s Department. She has also contributed to research undertaken for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and to the work of the Institute’s Australian Gambling Research Centre.
Rachel is a consulting editor for the Family Law Review journal and has represented the Institute in various capacities, including as the AIFS observer on the Family Law Council, a body that provides policy advice on family law to the Commonwealth Attorney-General.