Victoria Legal Aid Family Dispute Resolution Service

Victoria Legal Aid Family Dispute Resolution Service

Victoria Legal Aid Family Dispute Resolution Service is our in-house family dispute resolution service. If a grant of legal assistance requiring the services of a mediator is made, then, unless there are compelling reasons, Victoria Legal Aid Family Dispute Resolution Service should provide those services.

Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) only provides assistance for litigation in family law matters in limited circumstances and so every effort should be made to resolve the matter at the early intervention and dispute resolution stage.

VLA is committed to early intervention and dispute resolution services for appropriate matters by:

  • providing a Victoria Legal Aid Family Dispute Resolution Service grant only when there is a substantial issue in dispute
  • encouraging lawyers to engage in advice and negotiations.

The simplified grants assessment process

Lawyers that are on our section 29A family law panel must make an application using the simplified grants assessment process 

Family dispute resolution services before litigation

If a matter is suitable for FDR services, then VLA expects the lawyer to seek a grant of legal assistance for the Victoria Legal Aid Family Dispute Resolution Service before seeking a grant of legal assistance for litigation.

The lawyer should recommend that VLA makes a grant of legal assistance for the Victoria Legal Aid Family Dispute Resolution Service before seeking a grant of legal assistance for litigation if the issues in dispute:

See Guideline 1 – early intervention and dispute resolution for discussion of when using the Victoria Legal Aid Family Dispute Resolution Service may be inappropriate.

Example

A father instructs his lawyer that he and his wife separated two months ago. The father now accepts that they will not reconcile. He seeks to have his children spend some time with him. The separation was acrimonious and the mother will allow the children to spend time with the father only if the children’s maternal grandmother supervises them. The father does not believe that there is a need for supervision. At this point, it is clear that there is a substantive issue in dispute between the parties and the lawyer should proceed to the Victoria Legal Aid Family Dispute Resolution Service.

Geographical distance

In most cases, Victoria Legal Aid Family Dispute Resolution Service's regional and telephone conferencing facilities can help parties access FDR services which formerly would have been considered inappropriate because of geographical difficulties. These parties include those:

  • based in rural and remote locations
  • interstate
  • in prison.

Safety concerns

Victoria Legal Aid Family Dispute Resolution Service is often suitable for matters involving substantial issues of family violence. The service employs professional case managers who can conduct a comprehensive risk assessment with each party to a dispute.

It also has detailed policies and procedures to manage cases involving allegations of family violence. For example, parties to a dispute may completely avoid each other in a ‘shuttle’ or an ‘assisted negotiations’ conference.

If VLA decides that participation in FDR services is appropriate, then VLA must do everything possible to ensure that:

  • a person’s safety or ability to negotiate effectively is not at risk
  • it is reasonable to go ahead with participation.

Contact the service if unsure about its appropriateness

If a lawyer is unsure whether to seek, or recommend that VLA make a grant of legal assistance for the Victoria Legal Aid Family Dispute Resolution Service, then the lawyer must contact the service to discuss the suitability of a grant of legal assistance. A file note should be kept of the conversation to demonstrate compliance with the guideline.

To contact the Victoria Legal Aid Family Dispute Resolution Service:

  • telephone: (03) 9269 0500 or toll free 1800 136 832
  • fax: (03) 9269 0530
  • email: fdrs@vla.vic.gov.au.

Report by chairperson

After a Victoria Legal Aid Family Dispute Resolution Service conference, the chairperson will give VLA and the lawyer a written report. In the report the chairperson will recommend whether VLA should make a grant of legal assistance for litigation about any outstanding issues.

The chairperson’s recommendation will be based on:

  • the parties’ genuine attempts to resolve the matter
  • whether the issues which are still in dispute have enough merit to justify further assistance by VLA.

The chairperson’s report forms only part of the information the lawyer must consider in recommending whether the matter may meet the Commonwealth family law guidelines and the Commonwealth merits test.

However, if a lawyer recommends that VLA makes a further grant of legal assistance contrary to the chairperson’s recommendation, then the lawyer must:

  • seriously consider the issues in dispute
  • demonstrate compelling reasons for making a recommendation contrary to that of the chairperson by way of file notes or other documents retained on the file.

The lawyer must keep a copy of the chairperson’s report on their case file.

More information about the Victoria Legal Aid Family Dispute Resolution Service

See Victoria Legal Aid Family Dispute Resolution Service on VLA's website for more information about the service.