Notes on Guideline 9.1 – Family Dispute Resolution Services in family law property disputes

Notes on Guideline 9.1 – Family Dispute Resolution Services in family law property disputes

Where a grant of assistance is made for family dispute resolution, the service must be provided by Victoria Legal Aid's (VLA’s) Family Dispute Resolution Service (FDRS).

For more information relating to our FDRS, see Important information about FDRS under the trial for lawyers.

Eligibility criteria

Assistance may be available under this guideline where the following criteria are met:

Mandatory requirements

Refer to notes on Guideline 9 the mandatory requirements set out in Guideline 9 are met and the following criteria are met:

Asset pool

Combined net asset pool must be $500,000 or less, not including superannuation, or the person applying for assistance’s estimated total net claim is $250,000 or less.

Example

It is reasonable to expect that a client’s claim is likely to be $250,000 or less, and that receiving a grant of assistance to resolve the matters is important to ensure the mother’s financial recovery from the separation and that the future needs of the child are considered, where the:

  • relationship ended after two-years
  • couple have a six-month-old child
  • combined asset pool is $700,000, excluding superannuation
  • father entered the relationship with assets totaling $600,000
  • mother entered the relationship with no assets, and
  • mother has no income and primary care of the child.

Assistance may also be available in a property matter that relates to a purely negative asset pool, ie debt alone, as well as a combination of debt and assets.

Assistance may also be provided where the property pool is superannuation only.

Grants assessment process

An application must be lodged via ATLAS using the ‘VLA ASSESSED – FAMILY LAW PROPERTY PILOT’ template, making the following selections:

  • under matter type, select ‘family law property pilot’ as the primary matter type
  • under court hearing, select ‘no court proceedings’
  • under professional costs, select ‘Stage 1-FDRS’.

If the lawyer needs to provide additional information, this should be done using the ‘submit correspondence’ function.

Fees and billing

Where a second VLA FDRS conference is required and may reasonably be expected to resolve issues, the lawyer may proceed to a second conference without an extension of assistance.

Funding for a third FDRS conference

This will be assessed by VLA and is subject to an FDRS chairperson’s recommendation. Assistance for a third FDRS conference should be applied for via an extension request on the existing grant using the ‘VLA ASSESSED – FAMILY LAW PROPERTY PILOT’ template, making the following selections:

  • under ‘court hearings’, select ‘no court proceedings’
  • in the professional costs screen, select ‘Further VLA FDRS Conference’.

Supporting correspondence should then be submitted containing the following information:

  • details of the progress since the last FDRS conference
  • details of the issues still in dispute or orders sought by each party
  • a copy of the chairperson’s report from previous FDRS conferences.

Where assistance is granted for both parenting and property issues at FDRS, the lawyer is entitled to the fees under both grants, however the distance allowance (if applicable) is only available under the parenting grant.

A disbursement for a Form 6 Superannuation Form for Valuation is also available, where applicable.

The grant allows for service fees, conduct money and filing fees up to a set amount. If further funding is required, a disbursement extension must be submitted. Filing fees cannot be claimed where the client is entitled to an exemption of those fees. The grant allows a set amount for freedom of information (FOI) requests, title search fees and title lodgment fees.

Documentary requirements

The lawyer’s file must contain a file note that makes clear:

  • how Guideline 9.1 is met
  • to the extent possible, an estimate of the parties’ assets and liabilities (including superannuation), with documentary evidence to support the estimate. In matters where there are allegations of financial abuse, the documented instructions from the client and the lawyer’s assessment will be sufficient
  • documentary evidence of the applicant’s equitable interest
  • the case outline.

Lawyers submitting an application must ensure that evidence supporting the application is kept on the file and a copy provided to VLA with any requests for assistance.

VLA may request this information when an application for assistance is submitted under this guideline.

Ongoing assessment that client meets the guidelines

The lawyer must inform VLA Assignments by submitting correspondence if, at any point during the life of the grant, they are no longer satisfied that the client meets the guideline. For example, if the lawyer discovers assets that means the client is no longer eligible (assets over $500,000 excluding superannuation), or where the parties are not eligible for a grant of aid for parenting and a major parenting dispute arises.