By Gianna Huesch
A great article in the Fraser Coast Chronicle on the weekend detailed the many ways perpetrators of domestic abuse have been known to use the law against their victims after separation, thereby continuing to wreak havoc in their lives from afar.
The term “institutional abuse” is often used to describe the methods abusers use to take advantage of legal avenues in order to get revenge on and punish ex-partners, and continue to hold power and control over them.
This includes behaviours such as instigating multiple court actions in order to force their ex into the courtroom at great financial and emotional cost to them, or causing delays during the court process to increase their legal costs.
Also increasingly seen is perpetrators using their victims’ social media postings out of context as “evidence” in vexatious domestic violence cross-orders, or against them in family law parenting proceedings, making them look vindictive or calling their credibility into question.
One of the dirty tricks in the repertoire of the abusive ex being increasingly seen is for an ex to ‘conflict out’ family lawyers with the sole aim of denying a partner access to legal support. One party simply makes appointments with multiple family lawyers and meets each one for a brief time, sharing just enough personal information to create a lawyer-client relationship, and thereby managing to prohibit that lawyer from representing their ex, due to a conflict of interest. This occurs even if the person doesn’t actually proceed to retaining the lawyer; and is often done under the guise of merely “shopping around” for the best lawyer to represent them.
In abuse situations, this isolates the victim and prevents them accessing legal help. This is a common enough trick in celebrity or high-net-worth divorces to prevent exes hiring a ‘top gun’ lawyer, but when it is used against an abuse victim, “It’s about winning, but primarily it is about control…about hurting them and limiting their options”. And it’s worst for victims in regional, rural or remote areas where the options are typically already very limited.
Domestic violence experts quoted in the article say that professionals are becoming more aware of this tactic and that, in the cases of abuse victims, a solution may be that “community legal centres and law firms should be able to make referrals to other legal services for people in this situation”.
To avoid having this tactic used against you, it’s also often recommended that you simply do not wait too long before seeking out the services of a divorce lawyer—especially if you live in a small town.
Do you need assistance with a family law matter? Please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400.
Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance.