The Lighthouse Model – Overview

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By Theresa Au, Law Graduate

Background

As part of its commitment to protect vulnerable parties and children in family law proceedings, the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA) recently introduced the Lighthouse model. The model was initially trialled in the Adelaide, Brisbane and Parramatta family law registries and as of 28 November 2022 it has been implemented nationally.

The model enables the Courts to screen for and manage risk at an early stage in matters which may involve family violence, mental health, drug and alcohol misuse and child abuse and neglect. It also informs how the Courts will allocate resources and urgency given to such matters.

What does this look like in practice?

The Lighthouse model is a three staged process involving risk screening, triage, and case management:

  1. Immediately after filing an Initiating Application or Response to Initiating Application, if parenting orders are sought, each party will be invited to complete the Lighthouse online risk screen – Family DOORS Triage questionnaire. An invitation will be sent to the parties directly within 48 business hours and they will have 10 days to complete the questionnaire. The responses provided by parties during the risk screening process are confidential and cannot be used as evidence. The screening can also not be referred to other agencies such as the Department of Communities and Justice. Lawyers are not able to complete the questionnaire on behalf of their client but can assist them with guiding them through their responses. The types of questions that will be asked include details about:
    1. Culture and religion;
    2. Separation;
    3. Serious conflict;
    4. How parties are coping and managing;
    5. Details of the children;
    6. Physical safety; and
    7. Major stressors.
  2. A specialised team will then assess and allocate the cases to the most appropriate case management pathway according to the level of risk identified. At this stage, the team will also identify parties requiring extra support and safety measures and assist accordingly.
  3. Matters with the highest levels of risk will be referred to be placed on the Evatt List whereas cases identified as lower risk will be allocated to the most appropriate case management pathway

Risk screening will only be offered to filings after 28 November 2022, unless the matter was filed in Adelaide, Brisbane or Parramatta during the trial period. If the Family DOORS Triage questionnaire is not completed by either party, the case will be managed as per the Central Practice Direction – Family Law Case Management.

For more information, please refer to the following resources:

Information sheet for Parties – Lighthouse risk screening

If you have any questions about how the Lighthouse initiative may affect you, or family law generally, please do not hesitate to contact the Mills Oakley Family Law Team on 02 8289 5800.

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