Lighthouse is an innovative approach taken by the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia to screen for risk, with a primary focus on improving outcomes for families.
The Lighthouse model
The Lighthouse model 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.
As part of the Lighthouse model, parties filing Initiating Applications or Responses seeking parenting only or parenting and property/financial orders are asked to complete a risk screen questionnaire, called the Family DOORS Triage1. The Lighthouse model is implemented in the following family law registries: Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Canberra, Dandenong, Darwin, Hobart, Launceston, Melbourne, Newcastle, Parramatta, Rockhampton, Sydney, Townsville and Wollongong.
Encouraging your client to complete the questionnaire at the earliest opportunity will assist the Courts in placing the matter onto the most appropriate case management pathway and provide the parties with the opportunity to receive safety planning and service referrals.
Family DOORS Triage is an evidence-based universal screening framework developed to assist with identifying risk and support the development of tailored responses.
Parties filing or responding to a family law parenting only or parenting and financial application are asked to complete the Family DOORS Triage risk screening questionnaire online upon filing their court documents. The platform is secure and the questionnaire can be completed safely and conveniently using a computer, mobile phone or tablet.
To assist the Court, please ensure that your client's personal contact details are provided when filing an Initiating Application or Response on the Commonwealth Courts Portal, and encourage your client to screen at the earliest opportunity.
If your client's personal contact details are not provided at the point of filing you will be contacted by the Lighthouse Team to request your client’s personal details for the purpose of the risk screening process via an online form. These details are used for risk screening only. Beyond that, the Court will continue to contact the legal representative on record for all other issues.
At the earliest stage of proceedings, parties are encouraged to undertake the screen. The responses to the screen is used by the Lighthouse Team to assess the steps needed for future management of the case; this might include further review and risk assessment by Triage Counsellors.
Screening answers and referrals are confidential and inadmissible in court. The other party, legal representatives and judicial officers will not see or have access to the answers or referrals nor can these be used as evidence in court. Sections 10Q–10W of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) protect the confidentiality and inadmissibility of this information.
The answers provided in the risk screen questionnaire guide the Court as to which case pathway may be the most appropriate for the individual needs of a case.
A dedicated team triage cases according to their identified level of risk. This includes considering a range of safety risks that frequently arise in family law proceedings, including child abuse and neglect, family violence, mental health issues, drug or alcohol misuse and high conflict.
The Courts will also determine the appropriateness of the following case management options based on the screening results:
- High risk cases receive early attention through a Case File Review and if required, a telephone appointment with a Triage Counsellor, who will conduct a follow-up risk assessment, develop a safety and wellbeing plan for your client and offer referrals to support services. The Triage Counsellor may assist your client to ensure that they can attend court safely and enable the development of safety plans. Your matter may also be referred to an Evatt Judicial Registrar for consideration for the Evatt List.
- Medium and lower risk cases are offered online safety planning and service referrals as part of the Family DOORS Triage risk screening process and are considered for a range of case management pathways in accordance with the Central Practice Direction – Family Law Case Management.
The Evatt List
The Evatt List is a specialist list, which involves early information gathering and active case management for serious high risk matters.
Your client's case may be allocated to the Evatt List if:
- the case is filed at a relevant family law registry
- the Application or Response seek parenting orders only or parenting and financial orders
- either party in the matter has completed the Family DOORS Triage risk screening questionnaire
- the case has been reviewed by a Triage Counsellor, and
- the Evatt Judicial Registrar has reviewed the case and determined it is appropriate for allocation to the Evatt List.
If the matter is allocated to the Evatt List, a formal Court Order will be made notifying you of this allocation. If you do not receive a formal Court Order, the Court date originally allocated and case management pathway will remain the same unless otherwise advised by the Court.
It is important for parties to be aware that matters cannot be placed on the Evatt List by way of transfer, order or request. Practitioners are encouraged to discuss risk screening and the Evatt List with their clients.
All Court Orders are accessible via the Commonwealth Courts Portal: www.comcourts.gov.au
The following resources are available on the Court’s website: www.fcfcoa.gov.au
- The Lighthouse model: www.fcfcoa.gov.au/lighthouse
- Safety plans: Do you have fears for your safety when attending court?
- Family dispute resolution: Dispute Resolution in Family Law Proceedings
- The Evatt List: Guide for parties in the Federal Circuit and Family Court Evatt List
This fact sheet provides general information only and is not provided as legal advice. If you have a legal issue, you should contact a lawyer before making a decision about what to do or applying to the Court. The court cannot provide legal advice.