Blogs

  • 10 Oct 2022

Family Law in the Federal Budget The Lighthouse Model

In the recent 2022/2023 Labour Federal Budget, family violence was in the spotlight. In addition to other key funding initiatives, $63.75M over 4 years will be provided towards the maintenance and roll out of the Lighthouse Model to all primary family law registries of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.

What is the Lighthouse Model?

The Lighthouse Model is a new process that is being rolled out across 15 family law registries to improve outcomes for families in the family law system by ensuring that family violence considerations are flagged early and responded to appropriately. The introduction of the Lighthouse Model and risk screening "nationally strengthens and assists the Court's ability to identify risks early and respond to those risks. It will improve the safety of litigants who may have experienced family violence and the safety of children who may have experienced associated risk such as child abuse." It is a world-leading initiative that shines a spotlight on the prevalence of family violence in our society today.

The Lighthouse Project was successfully trialled as a pilot scheme in Adelaide, Brisbane and Parramatta registries since December 2020.

What does this mean for me?

From 28 November 2022, the Lighthouse Model will be implemented across 15 family law registries, including in Wollongong. As a result, the family law case management pathway will change and will include additional steps to identify and triage risks including:

  1. Early risk screening at the time of filing an Application or Response through a secure, confidential online platform. When filing an Application or Response, the parties will be asked to complete a confidential questionnaire which considers a range of safety risks that are frequently identified within family law proceedings including family violence, mental heath issues and/or drug and alcohol abuse.

    The risk screening questionnaire not only assists the Courts to identify serious risk issues, but it also ensures that litigants receive targeted support for their concerns and are placed onto the most appropriate case management pathway based on their identified needs and circumstances of their family.

  2. Early identification and management of family safety risks. A dedicated specialist team made up of highly skilled Judicial Registrars, triage Counsellors and support staff with detailed knowledge in family violence and family safety risks will assess and direct cases onto the most appropriate case management pathway based on the level of risk identified in the questionnaire. The team will triage matters and identify parties who may require additional support and safety measures, and this can include referrals or interviews with those most at risk.

  3. Safe, suitable case management including referral of high-risk cases to a dedicated court list, known as the Evatt List.

The Evatt List

Matters that are identified with the highest levels of risk will be referred to be placed on the Evatt List, a specialised court list designed to assist those families that have been identified as being at high risk of family violence and other safety concerns.

The Evatt List involves a dedicated specialist team including highly skilled and trained Senior Judicial Registrars, Judicial Registrars, and Court Child Experts who, together with Judges, maintain close oversight of the matters. The Evatt List focuses on early information gathering and intervention from the very commencement of proceedings.

Eligibility for the Evatt List

Matters eligible for the Evatt List are matters which are parenting only or parenting and property. It does not include matters where only financial orders are sought, contraventions, or child support cases.

To be referred to the Evatt List, at least one of the parties to the proceedings must have completed the online risk screen and be identified as high risk during the triage and risk screening process. Matters cannot be placed on the Evatt List by way of transfer, order or request.

For further information or assistance, please contact us on (02) 4226 5711.

References
  1. Honourable Justice William Alstergren AO, Update to the Profession -Expansion of Lighthouse Model, 27 October 2022.
  2. Federal Budget 2022-2023