The Lighthouse Project is an innovative initiative of the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia to better protect parties and children involved in family law proceedings who are experiencing family violence and/or other safety concerns.
The Lighthouse Project is currently being piloted in Adelaide, Brisbane and Parramatta. The pilot program aims to help parties navigate the Family Law court system and create better outcomes.
The Lighthouse Project comprises three stages:
When a party files an Initiating Application or Response seeking parenting orders only, they will now be asked to complete a questionnaire via a confidential and secure platform known as “Family DOORS Triage”.
The online questionnaire screens for a variety of risks, including family violence, child abuse, self-harm and substance abuse. The questions require ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers only and take approximately 10 to 15 minutes to answer. The answers are confidential and cannot be used as evidence in family law proceedings.
2.Triage and Case Pathways
A team comprising of Registrars, family counsellors and support staff will assess the answers to the questionnaire and triage cases into the most appropriate case management pathway depending on the level of risk. A range of common safety risks such as family violence, mental health issues and drug or alcohol misuse will be considered. There are three different case management pathways: red (high risk), amber (medium risk), or green (low risk). Where parties require greater support, the option exists for appointments with family counsellors for further referrals and safety measures.
Cases will be managed according to which case management pathway they have been placed in:
If the case is assessed as a “red” or high-risk case, it will be referred to a family counsellor who will conduct a risk assessment and provide safety plans and referral services. The case may then be referred to a Registrar to be placed in the Evatt List.
The Evatt List is a dedicated court list which seeks to assist families who are at high risk of family violence and other safety concerns. It focuses on early information gathering and intervention, through a judge-led support team.
If the case is assessed as an “amber” or medium risk case, it will be considered for a range of case management options and directed to the most suitable one depending upon the family’s individual circumstances. The parties will be offered safety planning and referral services.
If the case is assessed as a “green” or low-risk case, it may be referred to Family Dispute Resolution in order to resolve disputes in a cost-effective and efficient manner.
If you have experienced family violence and have fears for your safety or that of your children (regardless of whether or not you are attending Court), you should contact the Police.
If you have safety concerns about attending a Court event, arrangements may be made for you to use a safe room and/or separate entry and exit points. You may be able to attend by phone or by video.
The Lighthouse Project was launched in Adelaide last month. This pilot program will be trialled in Adelaide, Brisbane and Parramatta for 3 years with the goal to secure additional funding for a national roll-out.
This is a rare opportunity for South Australian families to take part in a ground-breaking initiative focused on screening and supporting families who have experienced family violence, child abuse, mental health issues and/or substance abuse.
For more information on how the Lighthouse Project may help you or, if you need assistance with a Family Law matter (perhaps involving allegations of domestic violence?), our experienced Family Law team can help. Please contact Hume Taylor on 08 8223 3199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.