Family violence and the Early Resolution Service

Family violence and the Early Resolution Service

Thursday, 9 September 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many changes to the way we deliver services, including an increase in the delivery of pre-court advice and online service delivery.

In adapting to the swiftly changing legal landscape in 2020, lawyers in Frankston began engaging in pre-court advice work and negotiation, with a view to resolving family violence matters before the first listed mention date.

As a result, in 2020, our Frankston office along with Peninsula Community Legal Centre resolved a large number of matters in which they were able to provide pre-court legal assistance. This corresponded with a reduction in matters that would otherwise be added to the family violence intervention order (FVIO) pending caseload. This initiative is commonly referred to as 'the Frankston Model.'

Following the success of the Frankston Model, the state government announced funding through its Justice Recovery Plan, to be used towards the expansion of the Frankston Model for FVIO matters.

This Model is now known as the Early Resolution Service (ERS) or Pre-Court Engagement (PCE) service.

What is the Early Resolution Service?

The ERS was set up in May 2021 to provide people with family violence legal needs with timely, high quality legal services in a safer and more supportive way.

 ERS is designed to help clients at an early stage in their family violence matter to negotiate and resolve FVIO matters prior to the first court date, thereby reducing the need for victim-survivors to attend court, reduce demand on the court day and increase the capacity of duty lawyers.

The ERS project is a jointly sponsored project between Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) and the Federation of Community Legal Centres. Other funded practice partners include the Magistrates' Court of Victoria, Victoria Police and the specialist legal services, Djirra and the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS).

The ERS is operating at seven Magistrate Court locations: Dandenong, Melbourne, Broadmeadows, Sunshine, Werribee, Ringwood and Morwell.

ERS legal services are delivered by VLA, Community Legal Centres, Djirra and VALS.

How is ERS different to standard FVIO legal assistance?

Under ERS, lawyers engage with clients to provide early legal advice, and commence negotiations to resolve their matter, prior to their court hearing date. Legal services may receive client referrals up to four weeks prior to the listed court date.

The ERS focuses on lawyers providing clients with a safer, pre-court negotiating environment. ERS aims to limit the number of people attending court, while increasing the number of FVIO matters resolving prior to the court date.

Under ERS, lawyers liaise with a centralised team at the Magistrate Court of Victoria's known as the PCE team. Having one centralised court registry team promotes a streamlined approach between the Court and legal services, enabling clients to access high quality, timely legal advice.

As a result of ERS, clients will have additional time to consider legal advice as well as to be referred onto other support agencies and services that they may need.

Is ERS ongoing?

Funding has been provided to pilot ERS for 12 months at seven locations.

An evaluation will take place at the end of this period to determine the best method of delivering future legal services and whether it is feasible to continue ERS as well as expand to other locations.

More information

If you require more information about the ERS matter(s) you've been briefed in, please contact your local VLA or CLC office.

If you require more information about the ERS project, please contact VLA’s Family Violence Project Coordinator, Beth Dal Cin, at elizabeth.dalcin@vla.vic.gov.au

Was this helpful?