Lighthouse Project- Court changes to assist in Family Violence

Lighthouse Project- Court changes to assist in Family Violence

The Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia are leading the way in assisting families that have experienced family violence or other safety concerns to navigate the family law system. The Project is the Courts’ response to calls for the family law system to better address and respond to family violence and other safety risks.

The Lighthouse Project is an innovative approach taken by the Courts to screen for risk, with a primary focus on improving outcomes for families involved in the family law system.

The project forms part of the Courts’ modernisation plan and has been assisted with funding from the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department. It will initially be piloted in Adelaide, Brisbane and Parramatta with the goal to secure additional funding for a national roll out.

The Lighthouse Project involves: –

  • Early screening through a secure online program;
  • Early identification and management of safety concerns;
  • Assessment and triage of cases by a specialised team, who will provide resources and safe and suitable case management;
  • Referring high-risk cases to a dedicated court list, known as the Evatt List.

When parenting proceedings are commenced in the Court, parties will now be asked to complete a questionnaire via a confidential and secure platform known as “Family DOORS Triage”. The questionnaire is confidential and is only used to assist for risk screening and to identify suitable case management. The online questionnaire screens for a variety of risks, including family violence, child abuse, self-harm and substance abuse. The questions may be answered offline and can also direct families to health and other support services, such as police and child welfare authorities.

When submitted, the questionnaires are looked over by a specialised team of Registrars, family counsellors, and support staff with detailed knowledge in family violence and family safety risks. The team will triage matters and identify parties who may require additional support and safety measures. Whilst Family Lawyers see many matters before the court which entail various kinds of risk, the court does not always respond to these issues as quickly or specifically as would be expected. The Lighthouse Project’s screening of the complexity and severity of risk is, therefore, a positive step in case management and also an opportunity to properly analyse and deal with the risk concerns in parenting matters thus allowing solutions to be made available to parties more efficiently than has previously been done by the Court.

If a case is identified as high risk under the Lighthouse Project, it will be referred to a dedicated Court List called the “Evatt List”. The Evatt List focuses on early information gathering and intervention, through a judge-led support team.

Alternatively, the triage process also benefits matters where there are not necessarily significant risk issues, as it identifies matters appropriate for Alternative Dispute Resolution. Currently, a matter may have multiple court events without much progress towards a resolution of the outstanding issues in the matter. By looking at the option of alternative dispute resolution early, parties may be able to bring a speedier resolution to their matter which reduces parties’ legal fees.

Do you have concerns regarding family violence? Would you like a free 30 minute in office consultation with one of our Family Law Team? Contact us on 8525 2700 or click here to request an appointment online.

Article written by Riccarda Stock

Photo by Joshua Clay on Unsplash

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