Ensuring quality outcomes for family law clients

Ensuring quality outcomes for family law clients

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

We are implementing important changes to our practice standards and fee structures to ensure lawyers are effectively preparing for family law dispute resolution and litigation.

‘We committed to several actions in our comprehensive 2015 review of family law legal aid services to ensure lawyers are better equipped and supported to provide high quality services to clients with complex needs,’ Executive Director, Family, Youth and Children’s Law, Nicole Rich said.

‘In family law casework, early analysis and case strategy development are fundamental to identifying key issues, narrowing those in dispute and ensuring appropriate resolution.

‘Even if the issues are not settled early, good preparation ensures that the matter progresses in a focused and efficient way,’ Ms Rich said.

With the help of an advisory group of family lawyers we have already developed a suite of practice tools to help family lawyers better prepare for litigation and mediation.

We are now making changes to our practice standards that reflect generally accepted good practice in preparing family law matters for mediation or trial. The changes will make this good practice clearer and embed it into the high-quality work of all family lawyers doing legally aided work.

What is changing?

Practice standards

On 1 November 2018, the practice standards will be updated to clearly reflect the preparation requirements family lawyers must undertake. The changes include:

  • Independent Children’s Lawyers (ICLs) must meet with the child/ren, unless there are compelling reasons not to do so.
  • Preparation for litigation matters must include evidence analysis, case strategy and timely and comprehensive briefing of counsel.
  • Preparation for Family Dispute Resolution Service matters must include taking instructions from clients and helping them to prepare, and timely provision of documents.

The updated practice standards will apply to any new matter opened after 1 November 2018 and will be subject to our usual compliance and audit processes.

Download the revised practice standards from 1 November 2018.

Fees

The current preparation fee paid for family law trials will stay the same. However, to recognise the new practice standards the preparation fee will now be split to include:

  • an evidence analysis, merits assessment and case strategy fee (equivalent to three hours at our standard hourly rate, currently $187.00) to cover the work involved for a lawyer or barrister undertaking this assessment.
  • the remainder of the fee to be a general lump sum to cover other preparation undertaken by a lawyer.

Atlas changes

From 1 November 2018, you will see a change when submitting new claims for trial preparation fees.  The trial preparation fee will now be split to reflect the above change. You will see a ‘PREP EVIDENCE, MERIT, CASE STRATEGY’ fee and general preparation fees. 

To claim the full lump sum fee payable, you will simply need to claim against the two fee items, where you have undertaken the relevant work.

More information

For more information about the Family Law Legal Aid Services Review please contact Samantha Watson, Manager Family Law Review on Samantha.watson@vla.vic.gov.au

For more information about complying with the new practice standards or fees please contact Assignments on assignmentsfamily@vla.vic.gov.au.

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