Vexatious Litigation in Family Law and Coercive Control: Ways to Improve Legal Remedies and Better Protect the Victims

Emma Fitch and Patricia Easteal (2017) ‘Vexatious Litigation in Family Law and Coercive Control: Ways to Improve Legal Remedies and Better Protect the Victims,’ Family Law Review, 7, 103-115.

16 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2017 Last revised: 19 Mar 2019

See all articles by Emma Fitch

Emma Fitch

University of Canberra - Division of Business, Law and Information Sciences

Patricia L. Easteal

University of Canberra - School of Law and Justice

Date Written: August 8, 2017

Abstract

The Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence suggested that vexatious litigation may share similar characteristics with violent behaviour, namely coercion and control. In this article, through drawing on the insights of a sample of family law practitioners and the narrative of a domestic violence survivor, we seek to explore how vexatious litigation in family law matters may contain elements of such violence. We also see how vexatious litigation can consume significant court resources, and cause financial and emotional hardship upon the other party. Noting that there are more vexatious litigants in the Family Courts than all other jurisdictions in Australia combined, we examine whether the current family law legislation and family court processes adequately protect the other parties, and assist lawyers in dealing with this type of litigator. We also present a number of legislative and non-legislative suggestions for how responses could be improved, with the caveat that any change to better protect parties from vexatious behaviour must maintain a balance with allowing access to justice.

Note: This publication is copyright. Other than for the purposes of and subject to the conditions prescribed under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth), no part of it may in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, microcopying, photocopying, recording or otherwise) be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted without prior written permission. Enquiries should be addressed to Thomson Reuters (Professional) Australia Limited. PO Box 3502, Rozelle NSW 2039. legal.thomsonreuters.com.au

This article was first published by Thomson Reuters in the Family Law Review and should be cited as Emma Fitch, Patricia L. Easteal, Vexatious Litigation in Family Law and Coercive Control: Ways to Improve Legal Remedies and Better Protect the Victims, 2017, 7, Fam L Rev, 103.

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Keywords: Vexatious litigation, Family law, Coercive control

JEL Classification: K36, K40, K49

Suggested Citation

Fitch, Emma and Easteal, Patricia L., Vexatious Litigation in Family Law and Coercive Control: Ways to Improve Legal Remedies and Better Protect the Victims (August 8, 2017). Emma Fitch and Patricia Easteal (2017) ‘Vexatious Litigation in Family Law and Coercive Control: Ways to Improve Legal Remedies and Better Protect the Victims,’ Family Law Review, 7, 103-115.. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3015354

Emma Fitch

University of Canberra - Division of Business, Law and Information Sciences ( email )

Australia

Patricia L. Easteal (Contact Author)

University of Canberra - School of Law and Justice ( email )

Australia

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