Published: 04 November, 2021

Lighthouse Project - Update to the Profession October 2021

This edition of the Lighthouse Project Update focuses on the Lighthouse Project Triage process and includes a Q & A section from Family Counsellors involved with the Project.

Risk Screening

Family DOORS Triage is a risk screen specifically developed for use in the family law system. The risk screen questionnaire takes approximately 10-15 minutes to complete and considers a number of safety risks such as family violence, mental health issues, drug/alcohol misuse and other risk factors. When the questionnaire is completed by the client, their matter is triaged and categorised into three separate risk classifications: low, medium or high risk. This helps the Court to decide on the best case management pathway for each matter.

The risk screening process is confidential and cannot be used as evidence in proceedings. The fact that you have completed the risk screen will not be disclosed to the other party or the judicial officer managing the matter.

Triage Process

When a client returns a questionnaire indicating high risk, they are invited to attend a short voluntary telephone triage interview with a Family Counsellor. The Family Counsellor’s role is to strengthen the safety and wellbeing of the client, the child/children and/or family members by:

  • Exploring safety and wellbeing concerns
  • Conducting further risk assessment
  • Offering support and guidance to address the concerns identified, and
  • Identifying community services to provide immediate and/or ongoing social and legal support.

The case study below outlines the benefits of engaging in family counsellor interviews by providing support to clients as they navigate the family law process.

Case Study # 7

The Applicant filed an urgent Initiating Application regarding the living arrangements of three children aged under 14. The Applicant completed the Family DOORS Triage questionnaire and returned a high risk classification. The Applicant attended an interview with a Family Counsellor where the following risk factors and issues were identified:

  • Family Violence
  • Homelessness
  • Mental Health
  • Drug and Alcohol misuse
  • Child Abuse and Neglect

Further, there were cultural considerations for the Applicant which heightened vulnerability and risk factors.


During an interview with a Family Counsellor, the Applicant was able to gain a comprehensive overview of the issues and risk factors they faced. They were provided assistance through tailored safety planning and referrals and at the conclusion of the interview, the Family Counsellor took the following actions:

  • Made a referral to Family Advocacy and Support Service (FASS) to provide the client with legal support and advice about their family law proceedings; and
  • Contacted the support service Centre Against Domestic Abuse (CADA) and made an appointment for the Applicant with a specialist worker to provide social support in relation to family violence and around increasing safety for the Applicant and their children.

If the client had not attended the interview with the Family Counsellor, the Court may not have been aware of the extent of the issues faced by the client, and the client would not have been made aware of the services within the local community that could provide assistance to their situation and circumstances.

The Applicant later provided feedback: ‘Thank you very much for your effort on doing this for me... I highly appreciate it. Hope you will continue on helping vulnerable people like me God bless you’

Q & A with Two Family Counsellors

As a Family Counsellor what do you want clients/legal representatives to know?

We would like clients and legal representatives to know that the triage interview is meant to be a supportive process, whereby we help the clients feel supported entering into family law proceedings. The process of engaging with the Lighthouse Project is voluntary, uncomplicated and can be of great benefit to you and your family. The interview can be scheduled for a time that best suits you, taking place in the comfort and privacy of whatever environment you choose and is fully confidential.

We use several different social science methods to help the clients build on their own strengths, empower them and help them to manage/mitigate several different types of risk factors and wellbeing issues. We give the clients suggestions about services and resources to help reduce the potential harm to them and their children. We help clients to focus on the children and to move forward in a safe and healthy manner.

We have received positive feedback about the process, stating that it is helpful and beneficial to the clients. Some clients have said that they wish the process had been made available for previous proceedings they had been involved in.

How do you think the triage interview helps with the Court process? What have been your observations?

We have noticed that the triage interview process can help the Court manage the risks in a more timely matter, focus more specialist attention on the high risk clients and support the lower risk clients to come an earlier resolution. The triage interview can help to reduce the clients’ stress and anxieties about being involved in family law proceedings, and it helps clients feel more reassured about managing their concerns. The interview process helps clients to identify and distinguish between the relevant and non-relevant issues in a matter, and it assists clients to gain insight and awareness into their own behaviours and potential triggers.

From our observations this process helps to reduce matters ‘slipping through the gaps’ as we are closely involved with the matters that come through the risk screening and triage process.

What can this process offer clients?

The process offers clients a variety of benefits:

  • Opportunity to reflect on what they are doing well and what areas they might need/want support in.
  • Reassurance to the client about the support they can get and feel positive about the possible future parenting arrangements for their children.
  • Targeted triaging ensures the client’s matter is on the most beneficial case management pathway within the Court and provides a direct and appropriate response to the legal issue. 
  • Provides links with community agencies and services that ensure ongoing support for the client and their children.
  • Provides a tailored safety plan for clients who are concerned about their safety when attending court premises.

Further, it can provide general therapeutic advice, support and information that may shed light on the client’s issues and reduce concerns about the Court process in general.

Does it matter which party completes the risk screen first?

No it does not matter which party screens first or indeed if both parties complete the screen. Each is offered a separate Family Counsellor so that they receive unbiased and individual advice and support. The other party will not know whether you have completed the screen and what information you shared in your confidential interview and cannot do so under Part IIA Family Law Act 1975.

How does the Family Counsellor approach the interview process?

With curiosity, kindness and respect.  We are genuinely interested in learning about a client’s children and family. As Family Counsellors, we come from a trauma–informed and strengths-based perspective so we can provide targeted information and advice. It is a non-judgmental place to support clients with their worries, concerns and needs.

I am already linked in with services and support. Why should I complete the risk screen?

Clients may already be linked in with services however, a DOORS Triage Family Counsellor can provide tailored information that is specific to the family law process. Other services may not have specialist knowledge or awareness of the family law court process. We have broad knowledge about issues pertaining to separated families and about relevant services in a client’s local area.  Risk levels can change, and specific things can alter the level of potential risk for a family. Having a dedicated Family Counsellor assess the risk at the beginning of are family law matter can better help to ensure the family’s safety. We also have strong knowledge of court processes and may be able to clarify non-legal related questions.

Further information

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