DV victims 'falling through legal cracks'


Domestic abuse victims are often forced to walk away from property claims because the court system is too expensive and difficult to navigate, a Victorian report has found.

The Women's Legal Service Victoria has found 75 per cent of its clients report experiencing economic abuse, with many at risk of falling through the cracks of the family law system.

"Even after escaping her abuser, a woman can be saddled with an abusive partner's debts and suffer from poverty, homelessness and financial insecurity," the organisations's director of legal and policy, Helen Matthews, said on Wednesday.

"Many women escaping family violence are living with limited assets and serious debt, yet they are walking away from securing fair financial outcomes ... because the system is simply too costly and complex."

The legal service's report found domestic violence victims were at a distinct disadvantage in the legal system because they often couldn't afford to pursue a fair division of property.

In one instance, legal fees represented 126 per cent of a women's property settlement.

For others, fees represented anywhere from 50 to more than 100 per cent of settlements under $30,000.

Many victims also feared taking legal action against former partners would unleash more violence and intimidation, while perpetrators continued their economic abuse by dragging out property disputes.

National domestic violence helpline: 1800 737 732 or 1800RESPECT. In an emergency call triple-zero.