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Theme 4 – Identifying and responding to co-existing legal issues

The potential coexisting legal issues you may encounter, and the impacts these intersections have on your client

As a duty lawyer, you will encounter clients with complex and competing legal and non-legal needs. It is not possible for you to address every area of concern. It is important that you are aware of and understand the potential coexisting legal issues you may come across and the impacts these intersections have on your client. You may be required to provide basic procedural advice to clients or to recognise when to refer and provide referrals for expert advice in other areas of law. Through the SFVC project’s Learning and Development initiatives, further training will be developed for common co-existing legal issues and incorporated into the SFVC Duty Lawyer Best Practice Framework.

1. Commonwealth family law

Family violence duty lawyers should understand the intersection between FVIO proceeding and, family law issues and family law court orders. In family violence practice, lawyers will often encounter family law issues about children, property, child support and spousal maintenance. It is important family violence duty lawyers understand and are able to advise clients about the difference between family law orders, parenting plans and FVIO, and how these can intersect. Family violence duty lawyers should be able to provide basic procedural advice to clients about family law issues.

Duty lawyers may be able to refer these parties to a private practitioner or the Family Advocacy Support Service at the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia in Melbourne and Dandenong. Some clients may also be eligible for legal assistance via a grant of legal aid, including ongoing litigation, and mediation. A client’s eligibility for a grant of legal assistance can be assessed by a VLA, CLC or private panel lawyer.

2. Criminal law

When consulting with a Respondent, it is important to clarify any pending charges and/or whether the client has conducted a record of interview. Where a client has been charged with family violence-related offences, such as breach of a FVIO, property offences, assault, sexual offending, and criminal damage, it is appropriate to provide a warm referral to a criminal lawyer for advice and assistance.

A client may be eligible for information or in-court advocacy from the criminal law duty lawyer service at the Magistrates’ Court. They may also provide advocacy for clients who have been misidentified as the predominant aggressor in a family violence situation attended by police, or submissions to the Court in relation to women whose offending can be linked to their family violence.

3. Child protection

Children witnessing or being exposed to family violence is recognised as a form of child abuse. Where there has been a family violence incident with police attendance, it is not unusual for some level of Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) involvement. In FVIO proceedings involving an AFM, police may seek an adjournment for risk assessment by DFFH. DFFH may become formally involved following a family violence incident. It is important that duty lawyers refer clients with child protection issues for specialist advice. Clients can be referred to Legal Help or a specialist CLC for help.

Independent Family Advocacy and Support (IFAS) provide non-legal advocacy and support to parents and primary carers who are involved in the initial stages of the child protection system.

Essential Training and Resources

Intersections: the links between crime, child protection, family law and family violence

  • (CLC/panel practitioner access via LawHub)

4. Migration law

Migration issues may present for clients on visas experiencing or using family violence. Clients on spousal visas who are experiencing family violence may need assistance with applying for a family violence exemption visa, or with protection visas where there is a risk of family violence in their home country and their matters have reached the judicial review stage. Clients using family violence may need advice on the impacts of a FVIO on their visa requirements.

5. Tenancy law

Clients experiencing or at risk of homelessness due to family violence may need advice or assistance in relation to tenancy agreements and housing options.

6. Infringements

Where infringements and debt have been accrued as a result of family violence clients may be eligible to receive assistance with the reduction of or waiving of fines.

7. Social security law

Where social security debt has been accrued as a result of family violence clients may be eligible to receive additional assistance from Centrelink, or have debts reduced or waived.

Return to the Overview of the Best Practice Framework's key themes

Return to Theme 1 - SFVC 'safety aware' legal services

Return to Theme 2 - The nature of family violence

Return to Theme 3 - Empowering and collaborative duty lawyer practice