Family Violence and Judicial Empathy: Managing Personal Cross Examination in Australian Family Law Proceedings

24 Pages Posted: 14 May 2019

See all articles by Tracey Booth

Tracey Booth

University of Technology Sydney, Faculty of Law

Date Written: April 9, 2019


English abstract: Enquiries and research reveal that many victims of family violence who are personally cross-examined by the alleged perpetrator of that violence in family law proceedings find the process traumatising and intimidating. Not only can such processes generate unsafe and unfair outcomes but also they are unlikely to produce the high quality evidence required by the court. In deference to the emotional wellbeing and vulnerability of these victims, a number of measures for receiving such evidence are available to Australian Family Court judges. However, currently these are all discretionary powers and anecdotal evidence suggests that the use of these tools is unpredictable and dependent on the individual judge. In the absence of empirical evidence, this paper aims to open up potential emotional dimensions of judicial decision-making in this context with a view to exploring these theoretical ideas in later empirical work.

Spanish abstract: Investigaciones revelan que muchas víctimas de violencia doméstica que, en el curso de procedimientos en tribunales de derecho de familia, son sometidas a contrainterrogatorios por parte del supuesto autor de esa violencia consideran ese proceso traumatizante e intimidatorio. Esos procesos no sólo pueden arrojar resultados inseguros e injustos, sino que también tienen pocas probabilidades de producir el material probatorio de calidad que requiere un tribunal. Por deferencia al bienestar emocional y a la vulnerabilidad de esas víctimas, los jueces de familia de Australia tienen a su disposición varias medidas para obtener esas pruebas; sin embargo, actualmente, son sólo poderes discrecionales, y pruebas circunstanciales sugieren que su uso es impredecible y dependiente de cada juez. En ausencia de pruebas empíricas, este artículo intenta abrir una dimensión emocional potencial de la toma de decisiones judiciales en este contexto, con miras a explorar esas ideas teóricas en trabajos empíricos posteriores.

Keywords: family violence, family law, cross-examination, judging, emotion, Violencia doméstica, derecho de familia, contrainterrogatorios, juicios, emoción

Suggested Citation

Booth, Tracey P., Family Violence and Judicial Empathy: Managing Personal Cross Examination in Australian Family Law Proceedings (April 9, 2019). Oñati Socio-Legal Series. Available at SSRN:

Tracey P. Booth (Contact Author)

University of Technology Sydney, Faculty of Law ( email )


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