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Legal abuse

  • Legal abuse is also called legal bullying or litigation abuse
  • It happens when someone uses the law or legal threats to scare and control you
  • Legal abuse can be a form of domestic and family violence
  • If you or someone you know is experiencing legal abuse, you can call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732, chat online via our website or text 0458 737 732.

What is legal abuse?

Legal abuse, also called legal bullying or litigation abuse, happens when someone uses the law or legal threats to control and scare you. There may be a pattern to the behaviour that happens again and again. Sometimes other types of abuse are going on at the same time. If this kind of abuse is being used to scare and control you it may be domestic or family violence.

Courts and legal processes are there to help us solve hard problems. However, sometimes people use the law to scare others, wear them down, or stop them moving on with their life. It is common to find dealing with legal issues stressful, but they should not be used to scare and control you.

Legal abuse can take many forms:  

  • Deliberately causing delays, including
    •  Appealing decisions when there is no chance of success
    •  Not providing documents
    •  Constantly changing lawyers
  • Making false reports to the courts or police
  • Legal threats made for the purposes of scaring and controlling you
  • Stopping you from getting legal advice or speaking to an advocate
  • Interfering with or destroying legal documents belonging to you
  • Destroying documents that might be used as evidence against a perpetrator of violence
  • Not doing what the court has ordered
  • Representing themselves (this means being their own lawyer) when they have no reason to do so. This can cause problems such as:
    •  Allowing them to speak to people that they would not be able to speak to
    •  Not filling in papers in the right way, causing delays
    •  Creating large legal bills for the other person. For example, by making lots of phone calls to the person’s lawyer or sending them lots of emails.

Legal abuse can be a form of domestic or family violence. If you or someone you know is experiencing legal abuse it is OK to ask for help.

It is common to find dealing with legal issues stressful, but they should not be used to scare and control you.

Who is responsible for legal abuse?

Legal abuse can happen in any relationship, including with:

  • Boyfriends, girlfriends, partners, husbands or wives
  • Ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, ex-partners, ex-husbands or ex-wives
  • Carers or paid support workers
  • Parents, guardians or other family members
  • Adult children
  • People connected to your work
  • Other people you live with or see often, whether inside or outside the home.

None of these people has the right to use the legal system to scare and control you.

Support for visa holders

The Australian Government has zero tolerance for domestic and family violence against anyone, including permanent or temporary visa holders. 

The Department of Home Affairs will work with people impacted by domestic and family violence to help resolve their situation under the migration law framework and those concerned about their visa status.

It’s important to remember that only the Minister or a delegated officer has the power to refuse or cancel a person’s visa.

For more information on access to support for persons impacted by violence, please visit the department of Home Affairs website.