The Lighthouse Project is a pilot program for parenting matters being rolled out in Brisbane (and other) Registry of the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia. When an Application or Response seeking only parenting orders is filed, parties will now be asked to complete a questionnaire via a confidential and secure platform known as “Family DOORS Triage”. Responses to the questionnaire are confidential and are 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, co-located in the Court’s Registry.
When submitted, the questionnaire is then triaged 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. If a case is identified as high risk under the Lighthouse Project, it will be referred to a dedicated, specialist court list called the Evatt List. The Evatt List is a designed to assist families who have been identified as being at high risk of family violence and other safety concerns and focuses on early information gathering and intervention, through a judge-led support team.
Alternatively, the screening process also benefits matters where there are not necessarily significant risk issues, as it identifies matters appropriate for Alternative Dispute Resolution (eg mediation). Currently, a matter may have one or two Court events without much progress towards a resolving the outstanding issues in the matter. By looking at the option of alternative dispute resolution early, parties may be able to bring the matter to a resolution earlier and with fewer legal fees. The downside of this however is that both parties must properly invest in the alternative dispute resolution with the aim of reaching an agreement.
For more information visit the Federal Circuit Court of Australia website.