When the actions will be implemented

When the actions will be implemented

We have commenced the application of the 35 actions for change in response to the Family Law Legal Aid Services Review, and will continue to implement the changes over the next three years.

Completed actions

We introduced the following changes to re-calibrate intensive service delivery, enhance assistance for vulnerable clients with complex needs and to ensure that Independent Children's Lawyer services are delivered in an effective way:

Action 20

An advice and negotiation grant was reintroduced for limited matters, with the fee to be deducted from the preparation fee for dispute resolution or litigation (as relevant) if the matter proceeds to that stage.

Action 22

Victoria Legal Aid is prioritising funding for family law litigation for cases where:

  • a party has a particular vulnerability, such as a mental health issue, cognitive impairment, language barrier, literacy issues, drug and alcohol issues, or an acquired brain injury and the particular vulnerability impacts on either:
    • the ability of the party to conduct their own litigation and/or
    • the ability of a child subject to the proceedings to maintain a meaningful relationship with one or more parties to the proceedings
  • a child's wellbeing or safety is at risk of harm from being subjected to, or exposed to, abuse, neglect or family violence to the extent that orders made in the proceedings are likely to significantly limit the relationship between the child and one or more parties to the proceedings and/or to make a change in residential arrangements for the child.

Funding in such circumstances extends to both parties in the matter (subject to other guideline requirements).

Action 23

The guideline restricting funding for representation at final hearing for clients otherwise eligible for litigation funding has been removed.

Action 24

Litigation grants for property matters have been reintroduced when the dispute also involves children and:

  • the parent is seeking to retain the family home and will receive no payment or
  • the matter involves a superannuation split and/or a pool of equity less than $50,000 (excluding superannuation).

Action 25

The funding requirement that respondents to a court application may only be granted aid to seek an adjournment, if parties have not attended the Victoria Legal Aid Family Dispute Resolution Service, has been removed.

Action 26

The guideline removing eligibility for aid has been amended so that it does not exclude funding on the basis of breaches of Victorian family violence safety notices or intervention orders.

Action 32

A grant for disbursements has been introduced for independent children’s lawyers seeking assessment reports, applicable where there are legally aided parties or self-represented litigants who are unable to pay the cost of the report.

Action 33

A limited grant for independent children’s lawyers to instruct in proceedings has been introduced.

Action 34

The current guideline has been amended to continue to allow for, but no longer require, independent children’s lawyers to appear at final hearings as solicitor advocates.

Commenced actions

Action 5

Victoria Legal Aid continues to expand the Settled and Safe program to targeted regions across Victoria.

Action 9

Victoria Legal Aid continues to implement its Reconciliation Action Plan commitments, including as they relate to family law needs.

Action 10

Victoria Legal Aid has established a working group that includes private practitioners, community legal centres and staff lawyers to develop a suite of quality tools to assist practitioners in the preparation of matters for hearing. These tools could be either optional or mandatory for those who conduct legal aid work.

Action 13 (under review)

Victoria Legal Aid, in consultation with the Victorian Bar, private practitioners and community legal centres, are establishing a preferred list of barristers to be briefed in legally aided family law matters.

Action 16

Victoria Legal Aid, in partnership with community legal centres, are undertaking a family violence to family law ‘continuity of service delivery’ pilot for high needs clients. For more information, see New pilots to reduce trauma for parents dealing with family violence.

Action 19

Victoria Legal Aid are reviewing the way in which family violence duty lawyer services are provided with a view to enhancing intake opportunities at Magistrates’ Courts for clients with family law legal need by supporting lawyers to screen more consistently for family law need.

Action 21

Victoria Legal Aid has established a reference group that includes private practitioners, community legal centres and our staff lawyers, to review grant guidelines related to family law dispute resolution and litigation and make recommendations about:

  • re-drafting the guidelines so that they are easier to understand and apply
  • re-drafting the guidelines to reflect the case management, hearing models, and practices of the Family Law Courts
  • developing checklists to assist practitioners in applying for grants of aid and assess the merits of a matter.

Action 28

Victoria Legal Aid are reviewing the recovery order guideline to determine if a subsequent hearing fee is required.

Action 31

Victoria Legal Aid are developing more structured guidelines for seeking contributions and costs to recover the costs of the independent children’s lawyers where appropriate.

Action 35

Victoria Legal Aid will provide training to independent children’s lawyers to build their capacity to appear at their own hearings.

Implementation to begin in the second year

Action 1

Victoria Legal Aid, in consultation with community agencies, service providers and community legal centres, will develop a family law screening tool for community and support workers.

Action 2

Victoria Legal Aid, in consultation with community agencies and community legal centres, will develop and deliver training that supports the use of a family law screening tool for non-legal support workers so that they can better assist clients to identify pathways for family law help and resolution of family law matters.

Action 3

Victoria Legal Aid, in consultation with community agencies and community legal centres, will scope appropriate sites for outreach services at points of early contact for clients and assess resource requirements for providing those services.

Action 4

Victoria Legal Aid, in consultation with community legal centres and community agencies, will review current referral pathways to identify gaps and further develop relationships with key service providers to support early and appropriate referrals.

Action 6

Victoria Legal Aid, in consultation with community agencies, Family Law Pathways Network and community legal centres, will develop or adopt referral or other tools for family lawyers to support early identification of non-legal service support requirements for clients and referral to appropriate services.

Action 7

Victoria Legal Aid, in consultation with private practitioners and community legal centres, will develop and deliver training to family lawyers on related areas of law, so that they can better assist clients and provide appropriate advice and referrals.

Action 8

Victoria Legal Aid, in consultation with the Family Law Courts and community legal centres, will further investigate the viability of establishing an enhanced duty lawyer service based on the Legal Aid New South Wales Early Intervention Unit. This project will include further considering the role of Information and Referral Officers at court.

Action 11

The current preparation fee for trials will be divided into two components:

  • an evidence analysis, merits assessment and case strategy fee ($534 being three hours at $178.00) to cover the work involved for a lawyer or barrister undertaking this assessment with the fee payable upon practitioner declaration that evidence is on the file that the assessment has been conducted prior to final hearing (which can be subject to audit via the existing audit process)
  • the remainder of the fee to be a general lump sum fee to cover other preparation undertaken by a lawyer.

Action 12

The Victoria Legal Aid Practice Standards for section 29A panels will be amended to clearly state the preparation requirements of family lawyers for mediations and trials, and we will use the existing audit process to monitor compliance.

Action 14

Victoria Legal Aid will review existing training on cultural awareness, disability and mental health issues and adapt or develop new training to be delivered to lawyers doing legal aid work.

Action 15

Victoria Legal Aid, in collaboration with community-based and academic partners, will develop and implement a culturally responsive framework for the Victoria Legal Aid Family Dispute Resolution Service.

Action 18

Victoria Legal Aid will conduct a court-based mediation pilot. The pilot could involve Victoria Legal Aid employing a mediator to conduct mediations at the court. The pilot could also trial having a Victoria Legal Aid Family Dispute Resolution Service case manager on call to assess suitability for mediation. The likely site for such a pilot is the Federal Circuit Court at Dandenong.

Action 27

Eligibility for Victoria Legal Aid Family Dispute Resolution Service will be expanded to include:

  • matters where there is or has been a risk of family violence (i.e. both victims and perpetrators are eligible)
  • matters where the proposal or conduct of a party substantially prejudices the ability of a child to maintain a meaningful relationship with one or both parents.

Action 29

Victoria Legal Aid will pilot an expanded duty lawyer (or family law legal service-type) scheme to represent clients at the Victoria Legal Aid Family Dispute Resolution Service (including clients currently eligible for a grant of aid), to determine if such a scheme is effective and economic, and enables more clients to access the service.

Action 30

Victoria Legal Aid, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, will review existing self-represented litigant resources to identify and address quality and accessibility issues and gaps and duplication in content, and develop or diversify family law legal information and other resources as required to support self-represented litigants.

Implementation to begin in the third year

Action 17

Victoria Legal Aid, in consultation with Family Relationships Centres and community legal centres, will investigate the value of trialling a new legal service at one or more Family Relationships Centres, including an evaluation of previous pilots of legal assistance to clients of the centres and review of current service arrangements undertaken by other legal service providers.

Read the final report

See the Family Law Legal Aid Services Review: final report (docx, 299.61 KB) for more information.