Lighthouse: Frequently asked questions

lighthouse

General information, registry locations and case eligibility

Lighthouse is part of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (the Courts) response to ensure that family safety risks are identified at the earliest point in proceedings and that case management decisions are risk-informed.

Lighthouse involves:

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

    1. Screening

    When an Initiating Application or Response seeking parenting only, or parenting and financial orders is filed with the Court, parties will be asked to complete the confidential and secure Family DOORS triage online risk screen. This has been developed specifically for the Courts and can be completed safely and conveniently from any device; computer, mobile phone or tablet. Assistance to facilitate the screening process can also be provided by the Lighthouse Team. Responses are confidential and will only be used to provide safety planning and service referrals, and to identify the most appropriate case management pathways, to improve the safety and wellbeing for children and families in the court system.

    2. Triage

    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, Triage 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.

    Cases identified as high risk will be referred to a Triage Counsellor, who will provide a tailored, clinical follow up which includes detailed risk assessment, safety and wellbeing plans and service referrals. 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 the most appropriate case management pathway, based on the level of risk identified from the risk screen:

    1. High risk cases, following clinical review by a Triage Counsellor, may be referred to an Evatt Judicial Registrar, who will consider the most appropriate case management pathway for the particular matter, including whether the matter should be placed onto the Evatt List. The Evatt List focuses on early information gathering and intervention. The team has specialised training and is experienced in working with families where high risk safety issues have been identified. For more information see, Evatt List.
    2. Medium and lower risk cases will be considered for a range of case management pathways, including dispute resolution, in accordance with the Central Practice Direction – Family Law Case Management.

    After a successful Pilot in the Adelaide, Brisbane and Parramatta family law registries, on 28 November 2022, Lighthouse commenced nationally in Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Canberra, Dandenong, Darwin, Hobart, Launceston, Melbourne, Newcastle, Parramatta, Rockhampton, Sydney, Townsville and Wollongong.

    To be eligible for Lighthouse the case must:

    • include a new Initiating Application or corresponding Response seeking either:
      • final parenting orders only, or
      • final parenting and financial orders
    • be filed from, 28 November 2022, in the Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Canberra, Dandenong, Darwin, Hobart, Launceston, Melbourne, Newcastle, Parramatta, Rockhampton, Sydney, Townsville or Wollongong family law registry.

    If you filed prior to 28 November 2022, your matter is not eligible, unless you filed an Initiating Application or corresponding Response seeking final parenting orders only, on or after 7 December 2020 in Adelaide, or on or after 11 January 2021 in Brisbane or Parramatta (Lighthouse pilot sites).

    No, clients cannot self-refer or be referred to Lighthouse by practitioners, external support agencies or by any other means.

    Lighthouse focuses on the early identification and management of family safety risks through risk screening at the point of commencing a matter with the Courts.

    After filing an eligible Initiating Application or corresponding Response, all parties are contacted directly by the dedicated Lighthouse Team and invited to participate in the risk screen.

    You will be contacted by the dedicated Lighthouse Team if:

    • your matter includes parenting orders (but this does not include consent orders);
    • your matter was filed in a Lighthouse family law registry, on or after the commencement of Lighthouse on 28 November 2022 (see What cases are eligible for Lighthouse above), and
    • you have provided your personal email address to the Court.

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

    If you cannot find or think you may not have received the email, we recommend that you check your junk or spam folder as it could be marked as ‘junk’. The subject line will be ‘Lighthouse – Invitation to complete Family DOORS Triage questionnaire’.

    If you have already provided your email address and you have not received a link to the questionnaire at the email address you have provided, please contact the Lighthouse Team via email at Lighthouse@fcfcoa.gov.au.

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

    • If your case is assessed as high risk, it will be referred to a Triage Counsellor for immediate action, which may also include a telephone interview, as required. The Triage 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 medium or lower risk, you will be offered safety planning and service referrals as part of the secure online risk screening process. These cases will be considered for a range of case management options, including Family Dispute Resolution, and directed to a suitable pathway based on the individual needs of the case.

    No, unfortunately matters filed prior to 28 November 2022 are unable to be retrospectively risk screened.

    Risk screening is only offered to eligible Initiating Applications and corresponding Responses filed on or after 28 November 2022, unless the matter was eligible in the Lighthouse pilot (filed on or after 7 December 2020 in Adelaide, or on or after 11 January 2021 in Brisbane or Parramatta).

    For more information see What cases are eligible for Lighthouse? above.

    If you have any safety concerns please see Safety at Court or if you would like further assistance please see Family violence: Get help and support.

    No. Your case will be placed on the appropriate case management pathway, based on the needs of the case. If both parties complete the questionnaire, the Court will use the highest screening result from the completed questionnaires to determine the initial case management pathway. If neither party completes the questionnaire, the case will be managed in accordance with the Central Practice Direction – Family Law Case Management.

    Risk screening – Family DOORS Triage

    Family DOORS Triage is a risk screening tool developed for use in the 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 answer and do not require any specific detail or examples. The questionnaire takes approximately 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. Judges, Senior Judicial Registrars, Judicial Registrars or any other judicial officer, and legal representatives will not have access to answers submitted by any party.

    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 Courts in identifying risk factors and safety concerns. This in turn assists in directing your matter to the most appropriate case management pathway and providing you with an opportunity to be referred to additional support and resources.

    Yes. Under ss 10U– 10V of the Family Law Act 1975, your answers to the Family DOORS Triage questionnaire are confidential and cannot be used as evidence.

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

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

    No. The answers to the questionnaire are 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 through the risk screening process you may wish to discuss this with your legal representative. 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.

    Family safety risk screening information, which includes questionnaire, is protected under sections 10Q–10W of the Family Law Act 1975.

    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 takes approximately 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 after ten (10) days. If you have any issues with accessing the Family DOORS Triage questionnaire, or if the access code has expired, please contact the Lighthouse Team via email at lighthouse@fcfcoa.gov.au.

    You can have a friend, family member, support person or your legal representative help you complete the questionnaire or help in understanding the questions. However they cannot answer the questions on your behalf or give you suggestions about how to answer the questionnaire.

    If you do not feel safe completing the screen online, or need more help to complete it, such as a translator, please contact lighthouse@fcfcoa.gov.au.

    For practitioner and external support agencies

    You can support your clients by discussing Lighthouse and encouraging eligible clients to partake in the risk screening process. By doing so, you are increasing your client’s opportunity of being provided with tailored support and referrals to support services for any needs or concerns identified during the risk screening process.

    As a practitioner/external support agency, it is important to be aware of the following:

    • The Family DOORS Triage questionnaire is designed to be completed by the client themselves and from their perspective;
    • The risk screening process is confidential – for more information see: Risk screening – Family DOORS Triage above.

    Practitioners and external support agencies can:

    • Assist clients in completing the risk screen questionnaire by helping them with access to a safe location and safe device (such as computer) to complete the questionnaire on.
    • Help to explain or translate the risk screen questions. Noting that if the questionnaire is completed by someone other than the client it may adversely impact the outcomes and support provided.
    • Provide clients with the link to the dedicated Lighthouse webpage and information about Lighthouse. Some useful resources include:
      • Frequently Asked Questions – provides information about Lighthouse, the risk screening process, registry locations and case eligibility.
      • Risk Screening Information Sheet for Parties – provides information for parties undertaking the risk screening process. Translated versions of this fact sheet are also available in 10 different languages.
      • Guide for parties in the Evatt List – provides information to assist parties when their matter has been placed on the Evatt List. Please note: Parties are notified by way of formal Court Order if their matter/proceedings have been placed on the Evatt List.
      • Safety Plans – Information for clients who have concerns for their safety whilst attending in-person Court events.

    Yes, your client may choose to disclose to you that they have completed the risk screen or discuss some of the content of the risk screen, including their answers. However, it is essential that you advise your clients that the risk screen and risk screening process is confidential and protected information. You must advise your clients of Part IIA of the Family Law Act 1975, including that all information that is received or generated through the risk screening process, including the risk screen itself, any triage and subsequent referrals are protected. It is important to take this into consideration when discussing the risk screening process with your clients and before placing any evidence before the Court.