Lighthouse Project – Frequently asked questions

Project information

The Lighthouse Project has been developed to help guide those who may be experiencing family violence and other safety risks through 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 involves:

  • early risk screening through a secure online platform
  • early identification and management of safety concerns
  • assessment and triage of cases by a specialised team who will provide support and link the party with resources
  • safe, and suitable case management, and
  • referring high risk cases to a dedicated court list, known as the Evatt List.

The project forms part of the Court’s modernisation plan and is funded by the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department.

It will initially be piloted in Adelaide, Brisbane and Parramatta. If the pilot is successful, it is hoped that additional funding will be made available for a national roll out.

Much as a lighthouse provides light and a navigation waypoint for ships, warning of dangerous coasts or guiding them into ports, the objectives of the Lighthouse Project are to provide guidance and support to families experiencing or at risk of family violence, and other risk behaviours, such as substance misuse or mental health concerns.

The Lighthouse Project is one of the ways the Court is responding to family violence and other safety risks in our community.

Recommendations for risk screening, triage and a high risk list been made in successive reports. Through the introduction of early risk screening and direction into the most appropriate case management pathway, it is hoped that the Court can support families at risk or experiencing safety risks better through the family law system. 

If you are interested in learning more about these recommendations, please see the following:

It is hoped that the Lighthouse Project will deliver the following benefits and outcomes, including:

  • early identification of at-risk clients through completion of a risk screen
  • tailored court processes and support to those parties experiencing family violence, including access to safety planning and service referrals
  • improved case management decisions leading to a reduction in the number of court events required
  • more information about families being available to the Court from an earlier stage which will improve outcomes for parties, and
  • opportunities to settle early through the use of family dispute resolution for suitable matters.

1. Screening

When an Application or Response for ’parenting only‘ orders is filed with the Court, 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. Responses are confidential and will only be used to provide safety planning and service referrals, and identify suitable case management pathways, to improve the safety and wellbeing for children and families in our court system.

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, Court Child Experts acting as 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.

Those cases needing greater support will be offered appointments with Family Counsellors to engage with health services and implement safety measures. Cases will also be offered safety planning and service referrals as part of the online screening process.

3. Case management:

Cases will be directed into one of three case management streams, based on the level of risk identified from the risk screen:

  1. Evatt List: A specialist court list developed and designed to assist those families that 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 directed to the National Dispute Resolution team, where and if suitable, will be referred to either internal or external FDR.

Risk screening – Family DOORS Triage

Family DOORS Triage is a risk screening tool developed for use in the federal family courts, based on the DOORS framework established by Professor Jennifer McIntosh and Dr Claire Ralfs in 2012.

The screening tool asks a series of questions to identify multiple risk factors in a short amount of time. All of the questions seek a yes or no reply rather than any specific detail or examples. The questionnaire takes approximately 10 to 15 minutes to complete.

The answers are confidential and inadmissible in Court. They cannot be used as evidence in support of your case or against you by the other party. Legal representatives and the Court will not have access to answers submitted by a party or their former partner.

Sections 10Q-10W of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) protect the confidentiality and inadmissibility of the screen.

Although completing the Family DOORS Triage questionnaire is not compulsory, it will greatly assist the Court to determine whether there are any risks that may benefit from extra resources being made available to your family and child/ren.

Yes. Your responses to the Family DOORS Triage questionnaire are confidential and cannot be used as evidence under sections 10U– 10V of the Family Law Act 1975.

The answers to the questions and your results from the Family DOORS Triage tool will be viewed by a Family Counsellor and Family DOORS Triage Case Coordinator.

Remember, your answers will not be seen by the Judge, Judicial Registrar, the other party or legal representatives involved in your case.

No. The responses to the questionnaire will be confidential and inadmissible and will not be seen by the other parties, their legal representatives or the Court and will not be able to form part of the evidence in proceedings.

If you receive a referral from the questionnaire or a Court Child Expert acting as a Family Counsellor you can give it to your legal representative and discuss the contents. You can also take the referral to a service provider where it will remain confidential and not be permitted to be used in court (inadmissible). This means that you can seek help for any issues identified through the questionnaire without the fear that the information will be used against you.

The questionnaire is protected under sections 10Q–10W of the Family Law Act 1975.

During the pilot, cases with parenting-only applications filed in the Adelaide, Brisbane and Parramatta registries will be able to complete the questionnaire. If the pilot is successful, it is hoped that additional funding will be made available for a national roll out.

Ensure you are in a safe space before clicking the link to the Family DOORS Triage questionnaire on your tablet, computer or mobile phone. The screen will take 10 to 15 minutes to complete.

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 to the Family DOORS Triage questionnaire will expire in five days. If there are any issues with accessing the Family DOORS Triage questionnaire or if you would like another link sent to you, please contact the Court on 1300 352 000.

If you have filed your case in a non-pilot registry, you will not receive an email.

If your case is eligible and filed at the Adelaide, Brisbane or Parramatta registries, you should receive an email if you, or your legal representative, have provided your personal contact details.

Please ensure you have provided the Court with your most up to date contact information, including your email address, by providing these on the on the Commonwealth Courts Portal.

If these details are correct and you have not received a link to the questionnaire at the email address you have provided, please contact the Court to request another link on 1300 352 000.

Pilot locations and case eligibility

The Lighthouse Project will be piloted initially in the Adelaide, Brisbane and Parramatta registries of the Court. If the pilot is successful, it is hoped that additional funding will be made available for a national roll out.

Initially, all new parenting only cases filed in the Adelaide, Brisbane or Parramatta registries after commencement of the pilot will be eligible for screening under the Lighthouse Project.

The Court’s aim is to secure additional funding to enable the project to be expanded across all cases in all registries on an ongoing basis.

Parenting only cases are those cases in which both parties seek only parenting orders. This means that the parties are asking the Court to make a decision about parenting arrangements for a child/ren. They do not require the Court to make a decision about their finances or division of property.

 

At this stage, the Lighthouse Project is focused on parenting only applications filed in the Adelaide, Brisbane or Parramatta registries after commencement of the pilot.

If the pilot is successful, it is hoped that additional funding will be made available for a national roll out.

After you file an Application/Response for parenting only orders at a pilot registry, you will receive an email with the link to the Family DOORS Triage questionnaire.

Once you complete the questionnaire and depending on the answers you provide, your case may be referred to a Family Counsellor and/or Evatt List Judicial Registrar. There are three possible screening outcomes based on the answers you provide in the Family DOORS Triage questionnaire:

  • Red cases will receive early support and intervention through a face-to-face, video or telephone appointment with a Family Counsellor, who will conduct a follow-up risk assessment, develop safety and wellbeing plans, and offer service referrals. Your case may then be placed in the Evatt list where a specialised team will manage your case from beginning to end, including safety planning for attendance at court events.  If you are allocated to the Evatt List, a formal Court Order will be made notifying you before the first Court date. If you do not receive a formal Court Order, your Court date originally allocated and case pathway will remain the same unless otherwise advised by the Court.
  • Amber cases will be offered safety planning and service referrals during the online screening process. Depending on the nature of the risks identified in the screen, the case may be eligible for court-ordered family dispute resolution at an early stage.
  • Green cases will be targeted for court-ordered family dispute resolution to assist parties to resolve issues as soon as possible.

For any case which is filed outside the pilot registries the normal arrangements will continue.

Initially the Lighthouse Project is only available to new applications filed after the commencement date for proceedings seeking parenting only orders.

The Court’s aim is to secure additional funding to enable the project to be expanded across all cases in all registries on an ongoing basis.

No. Your case will be placed in the case management pathway appropriate to the responses of the person who completes the questionnaire. If both parties complete the questionnaire, the Court will use the highest screening result from the completed questionnaire to determine the initial case management pathway. If neither party completes the questionnaire, the case will be placed in the usual case management pathway.

Evatt List

The Evatt List is a specialist court list with a highly qualified team of Judges, Senior Judicial Registrars, Evatt List Registrars, Court Child Experts and court staff assigned to support cases.

It was named after the Hon Elizabeth Evatt, the first Chief Justice of the Family Court.

Given that the Evatt List is a specialised list for the highest risk cases, it is resource intensive and aims to ensure that, at the earliest point in time, Judicial Officers have more information to assist them in making decisions about families, including information from state courts, child welfare authorities and police.

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

A case may be allocated to the Evatt List if:

  1. it is filed in the Adelaide, Brisbane or Parramatta FCFCOA registries
  2. the Application/Response filed seeks parenting orders only
  3. one of the parties (applicant or respondent) has completed the Family DOORS Triage questionnaire
  4. one of the parties has participated in a session with a Family Counsellor, and
  5. the Evatt List Judicial Registrar has reviewed the case and determined it is appropriate for the Evatt List.

If a case is allocated to the Evatt List, a formal Court Order will be made notifying parties before the first Court date. If you do not receive a formal Court Order, your Court date originally allocated and case pathway will remain the same unless otherwise advised by the Court.

If a party is not legally represented, they may have a friend or support person attend a court hearing, conference or other appointment with them. In most cases, the support person's involvement in the conference/appointment will be limited. In special circumstances, the Judge, Judicial Registrar or Court Child Expert conducting the conference/appointment may allow the support person to provide information to the Court.

If a party has a friend or support person with them for a court hearing, they may sit at the back of the courtroom. Please note, children and young people under 18 are not permitted in the courtroom.

The Evatt List is a specialist list being introduced in the Court which focuses on early information gathering and intervention, through a Judge-led support team. The team has specialised training and experience working with families where serious safety issues have been identified.

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

Unless otherwise advised, you should make arrangements to attend all court events if your case has been designated to the Evatt List. 

The Evatt List has been developed with the intention of limiting the number of court events requiring parties’ attendance. The Legal Case Manager or associate looking after your case will be in touch with you to discuss alternatives for attending court, whether you are legally represented or not, particularly if there are safety concerns. If you are concerned about your safety when attending court, you should contact the Court about alternative arrangements, including, for example, attendance by telephone or video.

There is no need for you to do anything when you file your Initiating Application or Response to be considered for the Evatt List. However, in order to receive the direct email link to the Family DOORS Triage questionnaire, please ensure that your personal contact details have been provided to the Courts.

Parties and 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 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 obtain their client’s personal details for the purpose of the risk screening process via an online form.

We strongly encourage you to complete the Family DOORS Triage questionnaire as soon as possible after the link is sent to you. This will occur shortly after you file your court documents.