Nourish

Securing your finances and future - steps to take and where to go for help.

3g. Accessing legal services

Est. read time: 6 min

Keeping safe is still your main priority, however legal advice can assist you understand your options in relation to:

Legal advice is available from a range of sources:

Legal Aid

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Legal Aid has a Domestic Violence unit based in Perth to help women experiencing domestic violence or in applying for FVROs and related matters. They provide a range of services:

Information
Legal Aid Western Australia has a lot of information to help you understand the family law system and your rights and responsibilities. Provision of information by Legal Aid is available to everyone, regardless of means.

A really useful resource is a separate website Legal Aid have developed called When Separating. It is great starting point on your journey through the family law system. It has detailed information and videos about the law concerning children and ending the financial connection between spouses/former partners.

Legal Aid Duty Lawyers
Family Court Services is a free Legal Aid WA Duty Lawyer service to assist people who require urgent assistance in relation to family law and domestic violence.

This service has recently expanded to include the assistance of onsite social support workers as part the Family Advocacy and Support Service (FASS). This expansion is designed to assist those families who are experiencing family violence, either as a victim or alleged perpetrator. These services are available at:

  • the Family Court of Western Australia building in Perth, on any business day; and
  • Magistrates Court buildings in Geraldton, Kalgoorlie, Broome, Albany and Bunbury when the Family Court is sitting in those building from the Monday to the Wednesday.  Details of when the Family Court is sitting in regional courts can be found here.

The services of Duty Lawyers are available to anyone; however, priority is usually given to people appearing in court that day and those with urgent or high-risk matters. The Duty Lawyer service is a walk-in service, meaning that you cannot make an appointment and capacity to assist depends on how many people need help that day.

On the weeks that the Duty Lawyer service is in regional areas, they can also offer limited afternoon appointments to sit down and meet with you outside of the Court. These appointments can be booked through the local Legal Aid office in the relevant regional town.

The Family Court Services / duty lawyer service can help with:

  • Legal advice and information about family law, family violence restraining orders and child protection;
  • Adjournment applications;
  • One-off appearances for short matters;
  • Procedural advice and information;
  • Negotiating with the other party or their lawyer;
  • Preparing a Minute of Consent Orders in limited circumstances;
  • Document preparation is some urgent cases, such as urgent recovery orders and urgent property injunctions;
  • Applying for a Grant of Aid;
  • Counselling and safety planning; and
  • Referrals to other legal and non-legal services, including counselling services.

A duty lawyer cannot help with;

  • Representation at an interim or final hearing;
  • Appearances for long or complex matters; or
  • Ongoing legal assistance.

More information about family court duty lawyers can be found at the Family Court website or Legal Aid’s website

Legal Representation

You may be eligible for a Grant of Aid which means that Legal Aid will appoint a lawyer to act on your behalf. A Grant of Aid is subject to strict means and merit testing. More information in relation to how to apply for a Grant of Aid can be found at Legal Aid – Get a lawyer to run your case.  You are still eligible for a Grant of Aid, irrespective of whether your former partner has previously been given a Grant of Aid or received assistance from Legal Aid.

Information about the Duty Lawyer Service including FASS and applying for a Grant of Aid can be sought by calling the Legal Aid Info Line on 1300 650 579. Contact information for legal aid in Perth and rural and regional areas can be found on the Legal Aid website.

Further information about getting legal help with domestic and family violence matters can be found on the Family Violence Law Help webpage.

Community Based options

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Community legal centres (CLCs) are not for profit organisations that are independent from government. They provide free or low cost services to their communities. CLCs primarily target services for people who are ineligible for legal aid and cannot afford to hire a private lawyer.

A list of CLCs in Perth as well as rural and remote areas of WA, including contact details, can be found on the Community Legal WA website. Some CLCs have eligibility requirements – you should check when contacting the centre. Some CLCs can only assist with specific areas of law and will not usually represent you in Court. You can contact a CLC without needing a referral.

CLCs that may provide support in relation to family violence and financial abuse matters include:

In regional areas:

If you are staying in a refuge, ask the refuge staff whether they have contact with Legal Aid or other agencies to assist you in obtaining legal advice.

A number of the support groups and resources listed in 1g. Support services/groups for women experiencing or recovering from domestic violence offer help lines providing verbal advice including on Family Violence Restraining Orders.

Private Lawyers

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If you have access to funds to pay a private lawyer, the Law Society of Western Australia has a list of accredited Family Law specialists who may be able to assist you with both the family Law matters and the restraining order issues.

The Family Law Practitioners’ Association also provides a list of lawyers who undertake family law work.

Some lawyers may be willing to act for you on a pay at the end (“deferred fee basis”) or for free (“pro-bono” ) basis. You need to ask this when you speak to the individual lawyer. Another way of getting such deferred or pro-bono advice is to contact Law Access. They are a not for profit service that assess legal matters for people and try to match you with a lawyer able to assist you on a deferred fee or pro-bono basis. Law Access prioritise applicants with exceptional circumstances.

Representing yourself/Self help

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Legal Aid have also developed some self-help online programmes, including information on how to represent yourself at a restraining order hearing.  The duty lawyer service at the Family Court can also give you ad hoc guidance along the way.You can find more information about representing yourself at the Legal Aid website.

[Article last updated: 21/9/21]

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