Forum: Guard against litigation abuse in family violence cases

A posed picture of a couple fighting to illustrate family violence.
A posed picture of a couple fighting to illustrate family violence.PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: ST FILE

In installing a new task force to tackle family violence, the Government should be cognisant of an area most would not think to look at (Inter-agency task force formed to tackle the problem of family violence; Feb 17).

In the Family Justice Courts, incessant filings are well exploited by those working to protract the legal process - this is also how abusers harness the legal system to preserve control over their victims.

Family violence does not end at separation. As the victim has left the relationship physically and deprived the abuser of his previous means of abuse, the latter will look to engaging abusive and vexatious litigation to keep an avenue open for his stalking behaviour.

This opening would serve to exact further mental anguish on the victim while costing her time and money - resources better directed towards any child in the picture.

Perpetrators of family violence, especially those with intellectual and financial resources, are highly proficient at using the legal system as a tool of control.

Litigation abuse ensures that victims are not only held back from moving on, but also in receipt of a chilling message: The court isn't a safe place either.

Victims are often reluctant to speak up against their abuser as they know they will be jeopardising their safety further in the event of a lack of conviction.

Notorious Dr Jekyll-Mr Hyde narcissistic abusers skilled in theatrics are known to fool judges not versed in the case history or nuances of family violence.

Abusive litigation by way of frivolous court filings should be considered a form of harassment punishable by law.

It is no more than a scheme of domestic assault in which abusers craftily enlist the court's assistance in retaining access to the victim's life, be it her contact information or whereabouts. Perpetrators' lawyers can unwittingly be complicit in legal system abuse.

Lily Ong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2020, with the headline 'Guard against litigation abuse in family violence cases'. Subscribe