New pilot scheme to help separating couples divide their property

New pilot scheme to help separating couples divide their property

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

We are finalising preparations for a new and limited pilot of legally-assisted family law mediation to help separating couples divide a small amount of property.

‘Helping people to use mediation to fairly divide up their assets and debts can keep everyone safe and disputes out of court,’ Executive Director of Family, Youth and Children’s Law, Nicole Rich said.

Legal aid commissions around the country have been funded to administer the pilot as part of the Commonwealth’s Women’s Economic Security statement.

‘Being able to quickly and affordably reach a fair property settlement can mean the difference between financially recovering from a separation or beginning to experience poverty,’ Nicole said.

‘When people have access to financial support soon after separating it makes a positive difference to their wellbeing, and the safety, health and development of their children.’

The pilot program will begin on 1 January 2020.

Funding will be provided to couples who meet our existing criteria as family dispute resolution service (FDRS) priority clients, and who, together, have an asset pool of $500,000 or less, excluding superannuation.

New eligibility guidelines for the pilot will also commence from 1 January and the pilot funding is expected to support up to 100 couples.

We will work with private lawyers on our family law panel and community legal centres (CLCs) to deliver the pilot.

People will receive legal assistance until their matter is resolved. In some cases, this may require going to court if mediation is not able to resolve the dispute.

‘We anticipate demand for this scheme will be high, so we will be urging practitioners to lodge applications for their clients as soon as possible once the trial begins,’ Nicole said.

We will use this pilot to track demand for legal help for family law small property claims, to help support the development and funding of future services.

Expressions of interest from CLCs  

Under the pilot, our staff and family law panel practitioners will provide legal advice and support to eligible clients to resolve their family law property dispute through a grant of legal assistance, including through FDRS.

CLC lawyers will be engaged to represent the other person, to ensure both parties of a separating couple receive appropriate help and support through the mediation process.

We are inviting expressions of interest from community legal centres (CLCs) to be involved in the pilot program.

Interested CLCs should contact Samantha Watson, Manager, Family Law Review on samantha.watson@vla.vic.gov.au for more information.

Guidelines

We will also introduce a new grant guideline from 1 January 2020 for this pilot program. The guideline will allow for broader eligibility for clients than existing family law grant guidelines in several respects.

As part of our efforts to maintain a sustainable budget we will also suspend our current family law combined property and parenting guideline from 1 January when this pilot commences. If you have an existing grant of aid it will not be affected by this change.

We will be sending more information on the eligibility requirements for the new guideline later this year.

More information

For more information please contact Samantha Watson, Manager, Family Law Review on samantha.watson@vla.vic.gov.au

Was this helpful?