Lighthouse and the associated bespoke case management for high risk matters focuses on the safety of children and their families by identifying and addressing issues of family violence and other risks.
The expansion of Lighthouse supports the Courts’ priorities to shine a light on the scourge of family violence, to improve the outcome of matters involving family violence and other risks, and to keep children and vulnerable parties safe. The Courts acknowledge the positive response from the profession and parties in supporting Lighthouse and the Evatt List to further the Courts’ aim to provide better-informed and safer outcomes for families involved in family law proceedings.
Early support and engagement
The Courts continue to see a high uptake in parties completing the risk screen, with 50% of parties completing the risk screen within 48 hours of receiving the invitation to do so. This impressive response rate means that the Courts’ specialised Lighthouse team are able to provide early service information and support after the filing of a party’s Initiating Application or Response. Since 28 November 2022:
- over 5000 Family DOORS Triage risk screen questionnaires have been completed
- over 4000 case file reviews have been conducted by Triage Counsellors, and
- over 1000 matters have been placed on the Evatt List.
In addition, Triage Counsellors are providing information and referrals to over 18 different service categories. The Lighthouse team receive regular feedback about the positive impact the early support is providing.
Confidentiality and proceedings
Lighthouse is underpinned by a policy of confidentiality and inadmissibility. Part IIA of the Family Law Act 1975 (the Act) prevents the disclosure and admission into evidence, of information obtained through the Courts’ family safety risk screening process. Practitioners are reminded that Part IIA of the Act provides that:
- a party cannot be asked to disclose whether or not they undertook risk screening
- the risk screen responses, classification and referrals arising from the screening process, (including whether a party has had involvement with a Triage Counsellor) cannot be used as evidence in a proceeding, and
- information shared or provided by a party to a triage counsellor in the course of conducting risk screening cannot be disclosed or used as evidence.
In proceedings this means that practitioners must not, in any filed material or in submissions, include information and/or seek orders in relation to:
- whether or not their client has completed the risk screen
- expected outcomes of the risk screen, including the expected risk classification or possible placement on the Evatt List, and
- requesting their client complete the risk screen, or be placed on the Evatt List.
Practitioners are reminded that while your client may choose to disclose this protected information to you, you have an obligation to advise them of the effect of Part IIA Family Law Act 1975 and that all information received or generated through the risk screening process which includes the risk screen, any triage and any subsequent referrals is protected.
More information on how the risk screen is protected under Part IIA can be found on the Courts’ website. Practitioners are also reminded of the relevant Practice Directions including:
- Family Law Practice Direction – Evatt List, and
- Family Law Practice Direction – Parenting proceedings.
The following case study outlines how the Evatt List can provide support and highlights the benefits that tailored case management can bring to both the matter in general, and to the parties involved.
An Initiating Application was filed by the Applicant in relation to the child of the relationship. The Respondent filed their response shortly thereafter. The Applicant sought equal shared parental responsibility and to spend time with the child, while the Respondent sought sole parental responsibility and for the child to live with the Applicant and spend time with the Respondent in accordance with the child’s wishes. Both parties completed the Family DOORS Triage risk screen soon after filing their material. The risk screen, subsequent Triage Counsellor review and engagement indicated that the family was experiencing several risk factors including family violence and concerns for the parties’ mental health.
The matter was referred to an Evatt Judicial Registrar and was placed on the Evatt List. Following the matter being placed on the Evatt List the Evatt Registrar was able to gather important information through:
- the appointment of an Independent Children’s Lawyer
- Orders made pursuant to s69ZW of the Family Law Act 1975 to State Police and State Child Welfare Authority
- a Child Impact Report undertaken within 8 weeks of placement on the Evatt List
An Interim Hearing was listed to occur within 3 months of placement on the Evatt List.
As a result of the early completion of the risk screen both parties were provided with information in relation to domestic violence, educational tools and resources to support the family.
The swift allocation to the Evatt List and active case management soon after filing, enabled the Courts to gather crucial information prior to the interim hearing. The prioritised Child Impact Report made important recommendations as to the impacts of the conflict on the child. Following the release of the Child Impact Report, the parties provided final consent orders removing the need for any hearing in relation to the subject child. The final consent orders were made in chambers by the Evatt Judicial Registrar and the matter resolved safely within 6 months of filing.
FAQS – Evatt List
My matter is urgent – can my matter still be placed on the Evatt List and be heard urgently?
Yes. Matters seeking to be heard urgently will be considered and listed in accordance with the Central Practice Direction – Family Law Case Management. If a matter is listed for interim hearing on an urgent basis may still be considered for placement on the Evatt List, providing that:
- it is an eligible proceeding
- one of the parties (applicant or respondent) completes the Family DOORS Triage questionnaire, and
- the case is reviewed by a Triage Counsellor and assessed as being high risk.
The Evatt List Judicial Registrar will assess the matter in accordance with the Family Law Practice Direction – Evatt List and consider the timing of any existing and future hearings based on the risk factors in the case. If a matter has been placed on the Evatt List and an urgent application is subsequently filed, the matter will be referred to the docketed Evatt List Judicial Registrar.
Do applications need to be filed with a particular cover letter to be considered for the Evatt List?
No - There is no need for you to do anything when filling the Initiating Application or Response to be considered for the Evatt List. Eligible matters will be sent a confidential risk screen (or request for email address so a confidential risk screen can be sent) after filing of an Application or Response. Matters are placed on the Evatt List in accordance with Family Law Practice Direction – Evatt List.
In order to receive an email with a link to the Family DOORS Triage questionnaire, please ensure that your client’s personal contact details have been provided to the Courts.
A client’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 provided their email address, practitioners will be contacted by the Lighthouse Team to obtain their client’s personal details (via Personal Information Form) for the purpose of the risk screening process via an online form. Practitioners cannot complete the risk screen on behalf of their clients.
Practitioners are reminded of the importance of providing accurate contact information through the Commonwealth Courts Portal or when completing the online Personal Information Form. Incorrect contact details may result in your client not receiving the risk screen.
We strongly encourage your clients to complete the Family DOORS Triage questionnaire as soon as possible after the link is sent. Parties are sent the invitation shortly after all relevant and compliant Court documents are filed.
What can parties and legal representatives expect from the first Evatt List court dates?
The Evatt List is focussed on the safety of children and their parents and families.
Prior to an Interim Hearing, the parties will be required to appear at an Evatt First Return, via Microsoft Teams, unless otherwise directed. The Evatt Judicial Registrar will address any procedural requirements, such as subpoena requests and additional reports, and identify, as appropriate, the case management plan for the parenting and any financial applications. This may include ordering a Child Impact Report or listing the matter for an Interim Hearing. The Evatt Judicial Registrar may conduct subsequent case management actions in chambers to ensure the Interim Hearing proceeds on the listed date and with the benefit of all available evidence.
If the matter is listed for Interim Hearing, it is expected that practitioners will have reviewed material from police and the child welfare authority gathered pursuant to section 69ZW Family Law Act 1975, or relevant state legislation, any subpoenaed material and the other parties’ material.
The risk issues should be clearly defined so that the parties can look for areas of agreement (and identify those still in dispute) and come to the hearing with draft orders reflecting which issues are agreed and which will need to be determined. Those orders should include strategies to mitigate risk, for example, does time spent with the child need to be supervised or is a safe changeover adequate to protect the child and parties’ safety? There is dedicated time allocated for each Interim Hearing, and settlement discussions between the parties and their legal representatives should take place before the hearing. The Senior Judicial Registrar will have read the material and will expect the parties be ready to proceed.
The Courts published a series of updates to the profession in advance of the Lighthouse expansion and also produced a recorded Lighthouse Webinar. Practitioners are encouraged to review these updates as they contain important information about the expansion of Lighthouse and the Evatt List.
Further information can be found on the Courts’ website:
If your agency or organisation would like a representative of the Courts to conduct further information sessions on Lighthouse and/or the Evatt List please contact, Lighthouse@fcfcoa.gov.au.