New pilots to reduce trauma for parents dealing with family violence

New pilots to reduce trauma for parents dealing with family violence

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Parents at risk of being overwhelmed with legal problems because of family violence will soon be assisted through pilot programs in Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs and Victoria’s north-east.

The pilots will enable two community legal centres to offer a continuing legal service from the critical time parents first appear at court to deal with family violence intervention orders, to the point where related family law problems have been identified and potentially resolved.

Peninsula Community Legal Centre and the Hume Riverina Community Legal Service will share in $1 million of grants from Victoria Legal Aid to conduct the Family Violence to Family Law Continuity of Service Delivery pilots.

How the pilots will work

Many community legal centres help clients in the Magistrates' Court with intervention orders intended to keep victims of abuse safe, but then refer them on to private lawyers or Victoria Legal Aid to deal with issues such as living arrangements for children and division of property.

The pilots will fund the centres to undertake any ongoing family law casework that is identified during that initial contact, including supporting clients through family dispute resolution or at the Commonwealth family law courts.

What the centres hope to deliver

Peninsula Community Legal Centre Chief Executive Officer Jackie Galloway said the centre had a long history of providing family law services and ‘this funding will enable us to enhance our capacity to provide intensive family law casework services’.

‘We look forward to working with Victoria Legal Aid and Hume Riverina Community Legal Service to deliver this vital pilot.’

Hume Riverina Community Legal Service Manager Sarah Rodgers said the funding would enable an expansion of services to people affected by family violence  ‘where there are higher incidents of family violence than the state average’.

‘It is critical that parents affected by family violence are able to access help with their family law issues at the earliest opportunity, and in a region such as ours that has a distinct lack of services compared with metropolitan areas, the grant will go a long way to ensuring that we can help these people,’ she said.

Expressions of interest from the community legal centres were considered by an assessment panel that included Victoria Legal Aid managers and independent chief executive officers from other organisations.

Responding to our family law legal aid services review

The pilots fulfil a recommendation of our Family Law Legal Aid Services Review.

Executive Director Family, Youth and Children’s Law Nicole Rich said the review recognised that state-based Magistrates’ Courts are the first point of contact with the legal system for many parents, and where family law needs can be identified earlier and clients helped earlier to navigate the broader family law legal system.

‘When someone is separating from an abusive partner, it’s hard to think about multiple issues – like where the children will live or how to divide property when both parents rely on the one car – let alone organise legal help to deal with them,’ Nicole said.

‘With these pilots, we hope to see those stressful issues relating to children and property identified when parents first come to the Magistrates’ Court for an intervention order matter, and ensure they are given continuous legal support so that they don’t have to relive their trauma seeking help elsewhere for problems that could well be harder to resolve because of the delay.’

Read about our review

See all the recommendations of our Family Law Legal Aid Services Review.

Was this helpful?