Lighthouse project

The Court is committed to the protection of vulnerable parties and children in family law proceedings. The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (the Court) are leading the way in helping families that have experienced family violence and other safety risks to navigate the family law system.

The Lighthouse Project will play a central role in the Court’s response to cases which may involve family violence, by shaping the allocation of resources and urgency given to such cases. It will improve the safety of litigants who may have experienced family violence and children who may have experienced associated risks such as child abuse.

Pilot and purpose

What is the Lighthouse Project?

The Court is leading the way in assisting families that have experienced family violence or other safety concerns to navigate the family law system. The Lighthouse Project is an innovative approach taken by the Court to screen for risk, with a primary focus on improving outcomes for families involved in the family law system.

The Lighthouse Project is being piloted in the Adelaide, Brisbane and Parramatta FCFCOA registries.

How does it work?

The Lighthouse Project is a three part process: 

  1. Screening

    When an Application or Response for parenting only orders is filed at one of the three pilot registries, parties will be asked to complete a questionnaire via a confidential and secure online platform known as Family DOORS Triage. Developed specifically for the Court, this can be completed safely and conveniently from any device including a computer, mobile or tablet. 

  2. Triage and case pathways

    A dedicated, specialised team will assess and direct cases into the most appropriate case management pathway based on the level of risk. The team is made up of highly skilled Judicial Registrars, Family Counsellors (Court Child Experts acting in the role of Family Counsellors) and support staff with detailed knowledge in family violence and family safety risks. The team will triage matters and identify parties who may require additional support and safety measures.

  3. Case management

    Cases will be directed into one of three case management streams:

    1. Evatt List – This specialist Court list is designed to assist families who have been identified as being at high risk of family violence and other safety concerns. The Evatt List focuses on early information gathering and intervention, through a Judge-led support team. The team has specialised training and is experienced in working with families where high risk safety issues have been identified.
    2. Other case management – low to moderate risk cases will be directed into the usual case management pathway with a focus on completing dispute resolution to resolve or narrow the issues in dispute, where appropriate.
    3. Family Dispute Resolution – suitable cases will be targeted for court ordered family dispute resolution to assist parties to resolve issues as soon as possible.

More information can be found in the Information for Parties and Information for Practitioners.

Case management

Family DOORS Triage

What is the Family DOORS Triage?

The Family DOORS Triage screening process has been specifically developed for use in the family law system. The process considers a range of safety risks that frequently arise in family law proceedings including family violence, mental health issues and drug or alcohol misuse. A highly skilled team, including Family Counsellors, will review the risks identified to triage matters into high, moderate and low risk case management pathways.

How are matters triaged?

Family DOORS Triage is an online risk screening questionnaire. You will be invited to complete the questionnaire when you file an Application or Response with the Court seeking orders relating only to children (as opposed to orders relating to financial matters).

The questionnaire will take approximately 10 to 15 minutes to complete. All of the questions seek a yes or no reply rather than any specific detail or examples. The other party will not be able to see your answers. Your answers cannot be used as evidence in your matter or used against you by the other party.

Triage and case pathways

What happens once I fill in the questionnaire?

The answers to the risk screening questionnaire will assist the Court to decide the best case management pathway for your case. The three possible pathways, red, amber or green.

  • If your case is assessed as a ‘red’ case, it will be referred for immediate action with a Family Counsellor, either via video conference, telephone, or in person, as required. The Family Counsellor will provide a tailored, clinical follow up which includes a detailed risk assessment, safety and wellbeing plans and service referrals. This entire process is confidential. Your case may be referred to a Judicial Registrar to be placed on the Evatt List.
  • If your case is assessed as an ‘amber’ case, you will be offered safety planning and service referrals as part of the secure online process. These cases will be considered for a range of case management options and directed to a suitable pathway based on the individual needs of the case.
  • If your case is assessed as a ‘green’ case, it may be referred to Court-ordered Family Dispute Resolution, which provides an opportunity for the parties to resolve their dispute without having to go through the often costly and time-consuming process of Court hearings.

The Evatt List

The Evatt List is a specialist list developed by the Court where a highly qualified team of Judges, Judicial Registrars, Court Child Experts and court staff are allocated to manage a parenting only case filed in Adelaide, Brisbane or Parramatta that is considered to be high risk, through more intensive case management and resources. 

The Evatt List ensures that families are provided with appropriate resources and support to safeguard against family violence and other associated risks. It also ensures cases are managed through the Court process as efficiently and effectively as possible.

In broad terms, matters referred to the Evatt List go through five steps:

  1. Before the first Court event: within three to five days of the initial screening, a Evatt List Judicial Registrar will review the case to confirm that it is appropriate for the Evatt List and order a report from Court Children’s Services. 
  2. First Court event: within eight to twelve weeks, the Judge or Senior Judicial Registrar will address any urgent issues and decide what further information and evidence needs to be gathered so that the case is ready to proceed to a trial. 
  3. Second Court event: within three to six months, a plan and directions will be made to proceed to trial. This may include an order for a specialised report or Family Dispute Resolution, if it is safe to do so. 
  4. Compliance check: within six to nine months, an Evatt List Judicial Registrar will check that the evidence, any reports or other information is filed and ready for the trial. If the case is ready, it will be referred to the Judge.
  5. Trial: Within nine to 12 months, the matter will go to trial before an Evatt List Judge.

For more information, see the Guide for parties in the Evatt List, or the Guide for practitioners in the Evatt List.

Information for practitioners

Litigants filing Initiating Applications or Responses to parenting only orders in the pilot sites of Adelaide, Brisbane or Parramatta registries (pilot registries) of the Court will be asked to complete a risk screen, called the Family DOORS Triage, as part of the Lighthouse Project pilot.

Encouraging your client to complete the questionnaire at the earliest opportunity will assist the Court to place the matter into the most appropriate case management pathway and provide the litigant with the opportunity to receive safety planning and service referral to address any underlying issues. 

Filling out the Family DOORS Triage questionnaire

Litigants filing or responding to a family law parenting only application at one of the pilot registries will be asked to complete the Family DOORS Triage risk screening questionnaire upon filing their Court documents. A link to the questionnaire together with a unique access code will be emailed to them. The platform for completing the questionnaire is secure and can be accessed safely and conveniently using a computer, mobile or tablet.

Legislative framework

Part IIA of the Family Law Act 1975 prevents the disclosure and admission into evidence, of information that is in connection with a family safety risk screening process carried out by the Court in relation to a party to proceedings under the Act. This part provides that:

  • a party cannot be asked to disclose whether or not they undertook risk screening
  • the risk screen responses, classification and referrals as a result of the screening process cannot be used as evidence in a proceeding, and
  • information shared or provided by a party to a family counsellor in the course of conducting risk screening cannot be disclosed, or used as evidence.

The confidentiality and inadmissible provisions (ss 10U and 10V Family Law Act 1975) are intended to ensure that a family safety risk screening person cannot be compelled to disclose risk screening information, including to state or territory agencies, or in the context of proceedings in state or territory courts or tribunals. These provisions ensure that parties are able to freely and confidently participate in the family safety risk screening process, without fear that the information they provide may be used against them in other contexts.

Exceptions to disclosure are contained in s 10U(6) Family Law Act 1975.

Contacting parties for risk screening

Parties and their lawyers are requested to ensure that the party’s personal email address is provided to the Court in the following ways:

  • Both represented and unrepresented parties can provide their email address when prompted in the course of uploading their Initiating Application or Response on the Commonwealth Courts Portal;
  • Where parties are represented and have not previously provided their email address, lawyers will be contacted by the Lighthouse Project team to request their client’s personal details for the purpose of the risk screening process via an online form

Please note, the email address will only be used for the purposes of risk screening to ensure litigants are emailed a direct link to the questionnaire together with a unique access code after their Court documents are accepted for filing. The Court will otherwise continue to contact the lawyer on record for all other issues.

The Evatt List

Where at least one party has completed the Family DOORS Triage questionnaire, returned a high risk assessment, and met with a Family Counsellor, the matter will be referred to the Evatt Judicial Registrar to be placed on the Evatt List. The Evatt List is a specialised list developed to ensure that families who are the most vulnerable are provided with appropriate resources and support to ensure their safety and wellbeing.

Matters which are not eligible for the Evatt List include:

  • cases where parenting and financial/property orders are sought together
  • child support cases
  • child maintenance cases, or
  • contravention applications.

When communicating with the registry about an Evatt List case, lawyers should make any requests in writing by:

  • eFiling the request as ‘correspondence’ on the Commonwealth Courts Portal, and
  • emailing the registry, copying in each other party to the proceeding, confirming that the request has been eFiled.

When emailing the Court in an Evatt List case, it is expected that a party will:

  • address the email to the specified Evatt List email address and not to the Judicial Registrar directly
  • clearly state the Court's file number, names of relevant parties and any Court dates in the subject heading
  • provide a clear description of any attached documents in the body of the email, and
  • copy the message to all other parties (if applicable).

For more information see the Guide for Practitioners in the Evatt List.

Information for unrepresented litigants

Filling out the Family DOORS Triage questionnaire

You will receive a link from the Courts asking you to fill out an online questionnaire which will identify multiple risk factors in a short amount of time. The questionnaire will take approximately 10 to 15 minutes to complete. Any answer you provide in the questionnaire is confidential and cannot be used in Court as evidence. Your answers will not be seen by other parties in the proceeding or by the Court.

Ensure you are in a safe space before clicking the link to the Family DOORS Triage questionnaire on your tablet, computer or mobile phone. If you are interrupted or do not have time to complete the screen in one sitting, you can save your answers and return to the screen at a later stage.

The link provided to you for the Family DOORS Triage questionnaire will expire after ten days. If you have any issues accessing the Family DOORS Triage questionnaire, or if you would like another link sent to you, please contact the National Enquiry Centre on 1300 352 000.

For information in your language see: Family DOORS Triage risk screening and case management - Information sheet for parties - Translated versions

Legislative framework

Part IIA of the Family Law Act 1975 prevents the disclosure and admission into evidence of information that is in connection with a family safety risk screening process carried out by the Court in relation to a party to proceedings under the Act.

This part provides that:

  • a party cannot be asked to disclose whether or not they undertook risk screening
  • the risk screen responses, classification and referrals as a result of the screening process cannot be used as evidence in a proceeding, and
  • information shared or provided by a party to a Family Counsellor in the course of conducting risk screening cannot be disclosed, or used as evidence.

The confidentiality and inadmissible provisions (ss 10U and 10V Family Law Act 1975) are intended to ensure that a family safety risk screening person cannot be compelled to disclose risk screening information, including to state or territory agencies, or in the context of proceedings in state or territory courts or tribunals. These provisions ensure that parties are able to freely and confidently participate in the family safety risk screening process, without fear that the information they provide may be used against them in other contexts.

Exceptions to disclosure are contained in s 10U(6) Family Law Act.

Filing documents on the Commonwealth Courts Portal

Filed documents can be viewed by parties or those authorised by a party on the Commonwealth Courts Portal (CCP). The CCP provides web-based services for Court users to access information about cases before the Court. Parties may register for the CCP to gain access to documents which have been eFiled, as well as orders of the Court, judgments and listing events (past or future).

Attending Court

The Court understands that it can be very stressful and overwhelming to attend Court, especially when you may not understand the procedures and expectations. If you have difficulty with English and need to attend a Court event, call the National Enquiry Centre on 1300 352 000 or your Legal Case Manager to ask for an interpreter to be booked. This service is free for parties to the proceedings.

Court orders must be complied with. If you have received a court order and do not understand what it means, please seek legal advice. You can get legal advice from a legal aid office, community legal centre or private law firm.

If you have any concerns for your safety when attending Court, it is important you let us know at least five days before your Court event. A safety plan can be set up which might include arrangements for you to attend the Court event by telephone or video.

You can contact the Court for assistance in the following ways:

For more information, see the brochure Going to court – Tips for your court hearing.

Information for parties

Filling out the Family DOORS Triage questionnaire

You will receive a link from the Courts asking you to fill out an online questionnaire which will identify multiple risk factors in a short amount of time. The questionnaire will take approximately 10 to 15 minutes to complete. Any answer you provide in the questionnaire is confidential and cannot be used in Court as evidence. Your answers will not be seen by other parties in the proceeding or by the Court.

Ensure you are in a safe space before clicking the link to the Family DOORS Triage questionnaire on your tablet, computer or mobile phone. If you are interrupted or do not have time to complete the screen in one sitting, you can save your answers and return to the screen at a later stage. Parties to the proceeding, not their legal representatives, will be asked to fill out the Family DOORS Triage questionnaire.

The link to the Family DOORS Triage questionnaire will expire in ten days. If there are any issues with accessing the Family DOORS Triage questionnaire, or if the link has expired, please contact the National Enquiry Centre on 1300 352 000.

For information in your language see: Family DOORS Triage risk screening and case management - Information sheet for parties - Translated versions

Attending Court

The Court understands that it can be very stressful and overwhelming to attend Court, especially when you may not understand the procedures and expectations. If you have difficulty with English and need to attend a Court event, call the National Enquiry Centre on 1300 352 000 or your Legal Case Manager to ask for an interpreter to be booked. This service is free for parties to the proceedings.

Court orders must be complied with. If you have received a court order and do not understand what it means, please seek legal advice. You can get legal advice from a legal aid office, community legal centre or private law firm.

If have any concerns for your safety when attending Court, it is important to tell the Court at least five days before your Court event. A safety plan can be set up which might include arrangements for you to attend the Court event by telephone or video.

You can contact the Court for assistance in the following ways:

For more information, see the brochure Going to court – tips for your court hearing.

Further information