Co-authored by: Isabel Strahan
- The Lighthouse Project is a pilot initiative that is being implemented in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.
- It involves a confidential risk screening questionnaire that is to be answered by the parties to a parenting matter.
- The Court will then triage the matter and make an assessment as to the most appropriate case management.
Recently, the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia have recognised a dire need to triage family law matters. The introduction of the ‘Lighthouse Project’ has a primary focus on achieving the best outcome for families whilst having the safety of the children as a paramount concern.
What is the Lighthouse Project?
The Lighthouse project involves a confidential risk screening through a secure online platform where a specialised team will then triage and assess each case to then direct the parties to the appropriate resources.
What is the Process?
Once an Initiating Application or a Response to an Initiating Application to parenting Orders is filed with the Court, the parties will receive direct correspondence from the Court, via their personal email, to participate in the risk screening process. This process is used to identify the harm or exposure to harm that the child/ children may be experiencing. The screening will assist in identifying child abuse, neglect, family violence, mental health and drug and alcohol misuse.
This online questionnaire is called ‘Family DOORS Triage’ and should take approximately 10 to 15 minutes to complete. All questions require a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer and the link will expire in 10 days of receipt.
After completing the questionnaire, a member of the Lighthouse Team will assess your case and triage it according to identified risks. The dedicated and specialised team will direct the case to the most appropriate case management pathway.
It is important to note that the other party to the proceedings will not be provided with your answers. Your answers to the questionnaire are confidential and cannot be used as evidence in your case in accordance with the Family Law Act 1975.
If the specialised team reviews your answers and deems your case to be of ‘high risk’ then it will receive early attention and go through an in-depth Case File Review. If required, this may include a 30-minute telephone interview with a Triage Counsellor who will develop a safety and wellbeing plan. The Counsellor will ensure that you attend Court safely and have access to the appropriate resources.
‘High risk’ cases may also be referred to the Evatt List. The Evatt List is a specialised list that is designed to help assist families by gathering information and providing intervention through a judge-led support team.
If your case is categorised as a ‘low or medium risk’ case, you will be offered online safety planning and may be asked to participate in Alternative Dispute Resolution.
What if I Don’t Complete the Risk Screening?
We strongly urge you to complete the risk screening as soon as possible to progress your matter within the Court system without unduly delays.
The risk screening assists the Courts in identifying factors and safety concerns which will, in turn, benefit the case management of your matter.
It will also provide you with additional support and resources.
What if Only One Person Completes the Questionnaire?
Your case will be placed on the appropriate management pathway with reference to the answers provided in the screening. Therefore, if your ex-partner does not submit their questionnaire, it will not affect your case.
If both parties complete the questionnaire, the Court will use the highest result to determine the case management and triage accordingly.
If neither party completes the questionnaire, the matter will progress in accordance with the usual Court pathway.
ABOUT LUISA GAETANI:
Luisa is a Partner at Coutts Lawyers & Conveyancers and head of our Family and Criminal Law divisions. Since being admitted in 2014, Luisa has practiced solely in the areas of criminal and family law. It is her sensitive yet pragmatic approach that has allowed her to develop a strong rapport and build trusting relationships with her clients. Should a client’s matter proceed to court, Luisa has the skillset and experience to assist her clients through this process and where required, will draw upon her network of barristers to further benefit her client’s outcomes.
ABOUT ISABEL STRAHAN:
Isabel joined the Coutts team in January 2022, as a Paralegal working within our Family & Criminal teams. She is currently studying a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts, Majoring in International Relations and Minoring in Cultural Studies at the University of Wollongong. It is her dedication and hardworking nature that will see her go far within Coutts.
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This blog is merely general and non-specific information on the subject matter and is not and should not be considered or relied on as legal advice. Coutts is not responsible for any cost, expense, loss or liability whatsoever to this blog, including all or any reliance on this blog or use or application of this blog by you.