Family and domestic violence is a significant problem within Australia with 1 in 6 women and 1 in 16 men experiencing physical or sexual violence from a current or previous partner. Furthermore, 1 woman per week, 1 man per month, and 1 child per fortnight is killed by a current or former partner or family member.
It is well established that once a person has decided to leave a violent relationship, it is then when they are most at risk. But then they are left to face yet another challenge, navigating the family law system. Victims of family violence are 16 times more likely to experience family law legal issues and the legal system itself can become a further opportunity for the perpetrator to inflict their abuse on the victim.
The Commonwealth Government has provided funding for a family violence risk screening and triage pilot in the Adelaide, Brisbane, and Parramatta registries of the Family Courts. The pilot is currently being referred to as the Lighthouse Project. It is suggested that the project will improve the safety of litigants who may have experienced family violence and the children who have also been affected.
There are three steps within the project:
- Initial screening – when an Initiating Application seeking parenting orders is filed, the parties to that application are asked to complete a confidential questionnaire known as Family DOORS Triage;
- Triage – the application and answers to the questionnaire will be assessed and directed to an appropriate pathway dependent on the level of safety risk (low, medium, or high);
- Evatt List – if so determined, those applications where there is a high risk of family violence will be directed to the Evatt List which is a specialist court list with a team trained and experienced in working with families with high-risk safety issues.
Whilst there is still more work to do, this project is a step forward in protecting the victims of family violence when they seek the Family Court's assistance in protecting themselves and their children. If this project is considered a success, it will be expanded to more registries.
Please don't hesitate to contact our office for advice relating to parenting or property family matters, we're here to help on 1800 650 656.
Lauren Ryan | Family Law Solicitor