Specialist family violence services at family law registries open for referrals

Specialist family violence services at family law registries open for referrals

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

The Family Advocacy and Support Service (FASS) began on 1 May 2017 with the aim of providing holistic support and strengthening services for families who have experienced, used or are alleged to have used family violence.

It integrates duty lawyer and specialist family violence support at the Family Law Registry at Melbourne and Dandenong.

More help for families affected by family violence

Introducing FASS has boosted the capacity of existing duty lawyer services.

The service includes two additional duty lawyers at both court registries who can now help with a broader scope of matters, including family law, child protection and intervention order matters.

It also provides two specialist family violence support workers available at the court to help with a client’s non-legal issues. This extension of assistance recognises that families with legal problems continue to experience stress, family violence and a range of non-legal problems.

The family violence support workers undertake risk assessments, safety planning, assess social support needs and make referrals to other support services. Referrals to other services focus on helping with non-legal problems like drug and alcohol abuse, mental health or financial hardship.

FASS was established by Victoria Legal Aid with funding from the Commonwealth Government.

Handy reminders for practitioners

  • FASS provides a one-off service. It is not a drop-in clinic and is not a substitute for ongoing legal advice.
  • Anyone affected by family violence and who is involved in family law proceedings can seek support from FASS.
  • Eligibility is broad and not means-tested.
  • A client just needs to have experienced, used or alleged to have used family violence in their relationship; and they must be needing legal help with a family law, child protection or family violence intervention order matter.
  • FASS is not just for unrepresented or self-represented litigants.
  • A person does not need to qualify for legal aid to get help through FASS, however clients are subject to an intake procedure. This includes determining whether there is anything that precludes them from accessing legal assistance (such as a conflict of interest).
  • Lawyers can refer their clients to FASS for help with their non-legal issues.

How to make a referral

Lawyers can refer their clients to FASS for non-legal support from the specialist family violence support workers based at the court by simply asking them to contact the FASS information referral officer when they get to court.

If a client has legal representation already, they will not be able to obtain further legal advice through FASS.

The role of the information referral officer at each registry is to triage the client to determine the level and urgency of service they need.

Individuals and families can also be referred to the information referral officer to access FASS services by, for example, a judge, a court registrar or family consultant, a Department of Health and Human Services staff member or a Court Network or Family Law Pathways Network volunteer. This is a change in practice from the previous duty lawyer model at each court.

The help provided by the FASS duty lawyer is driven by the immediate needs of FASS clients.

This means that on some days a client with a particular issue may be assisted, but on another day they may not if other people with more pressing or urgent issues need assistance.

The FASS information referral officer and FASS duty lawyer or family violence support worker will determine the urgency of the matter and the level of assistance needed on a case-by-case basis.

Read about the experiences of our clients

Read about how providing more than legal advice through FASS is helping:

More information

Read more about Family Advocacy and Support Services or call FASS Project Coordinator Hilary Molinia – (03) 9269 0234 (switchboard).

Was this helpful?