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Event description

Join ANROWS and research partners for the launch of the research report: “No straight lines”: Self-represented litigants in family law proceedings involving allegations about family violence

Friday 4 December 2020

12 – 2pm (AEST)

11am-1pm (AEST QLD)

11:30am-1:30pm (ACDT SA)

2-4pm (NZDT)

Speakers: Dr Jane Wangmann, Dr Tracey Booth and Miranda Kaye (report authors), Dr Heather Nancarrow (CEO ANROWS), Angela Lynch AM (CEO Women’s Legal Service Queensland)

Self-representation has been relatively common in family law proceedings for many years in Australia and other similar common law jurisdictions (for example, Canada and the UK). In the Family Court of Australia, the rate of self-representation at some stage during proceedings is around 30% overall, and is higher in those matters that proceed to hearing (Family Court of Australia, Annual Report 2018–19). At the same time, the extent of family violence in family law matters is also high (see Kaspiew et al, Court Outcomes Project. Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2015). The extent of self-representation and of family violence in family law matters suggests that both issues are likely to occur in the same proceedings, yet there has been little in-depth investigation to date into what happens when these issues intersect. This research report explores that exact issue: the challenges raised when family violence and self-representation co-occur in Australian family law proceedings. 

The research is founded on extensive field work. It included interviews with self-represented litigants as well as with professionals who engage with SRLs (judicial officers, legal professionals and other professionals). It also incorporated court observations in the Family Court of Australia and Federal Court of Australia and examination of court files.
A number of key issues emerged from this fieldwork, which will be discussed at the launch. These include:

• The challenges SRLs face in obtaining ongoing legal advice.
• The ways in which an SRL’s capacity to present their case in the courtroom is impacted by their expectations of the process, their ability to prepare, and trauma caused by experiences of family violence.
• SRLs’ lack of awareness of the centrality of paperwork and negotiations in family law processes, and the inadequate support available to assist SRLs in these areas.
• The way in which the experience of violence was not only something SRL victims had to document in their paper work, but was also part of the ongoing context of their litigation.
• The experiences and impact of ongoing violence in the courtroom and court precinct particularly where many SRLs did not know what safety measures were available. 

This event will launch the research report and also provide an overview of the key findings and themes of the research and the recommended ways forward.

Join the conversation by tweeting at #LSAANZ2020

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