Keeping safe is still your main priority, however legal advice can assist you understand your options in relation to:
- your financial position;
- the children, including access and custody; and
- options for keeping you safe including Family Violence Restraining Orders (FVROs). See 2c. Family Violence Restraining Orders – What they are and how to get one
Legal advice is available from a range of sources:
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:
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/ex-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 an onsite social support worker 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 in Perth and in regional areas when the Family Court travel during Magistrates Circuits – Geraldton, Kalgoorlie, Broome, Albany and Bunbury. Referrals are made through the Family Court Registry, from the court or through the Legal Aid Infoline on 1300 650 579.The services of Duty Lawyers are usually available to people appearing in court that day, or those with urgent or high-risk matters. Clients considered to have urgent matters and limited financial means will be given priority. You cannot make an appointment and capacity to assist depends on how many people need help that day.
A duty lawyer 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;
- Limited assistance and advice in Conferences and Case Assessment Conferences;
- Negotiating with the other party or their lawyer;
- Preparing a Minute of Consent Orders in limited circumstances;
- Document preparation is some urgent cases
- Applying for a Grant of Aid; and
- Referrals to other legal and non-legal services.
A duty lawyer cannot help with;
- Representation at an interim or final hearing;
- Appearances for long or complex matters;
- Ongoing legal assistance; or
- Non-urgent assistance.
More information about family court duty lawyers can be found at the Family Court website.
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.
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 optionsTOP
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 National Association of Community Legal Centres website. Some CLCs have eligibility requirements – you should check when contacting the centre. Some CLCs also 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:
- Aboriginal Family Legal Service for victims-survivors of family violence and/or sexual assault who are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples, or whose partner or children are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples
- Consumer Credit Legal Service (WA): areas of advice include credit code, general banking, financial and personal debt disputes
- Fremantle Community Legal Centre: areas of advice include restraining orders, family law matters and tenancy (tenants only)
- Goldfields Community Legal Centre: areas of advice include family and tenancy law, divorce/separation, property settlement (advice only) and restraining orders
- Gosnells Community Legal Centre: areas of advice include family law, domestic violence and tenancy
- Kimberley Community Legal Service: areas of advice include tenancy, Centrelink, and family violence
- Marninwarntikura Fitzroy Women’s Resource Centre: areas of advice include family violence prevention, family law, restraining orders and legal education and family safety and support
- Midland Information, Debt and Legal Advocacy Service (Midlas): areas of advice include tenancy, domestic violence and family law
- Northern Suburbs Community Legal Centre: areas of advice include family law and tenancy
- Pilbara Community Legal Service: areas of advice include family law, tenancy, domestic violence and financial counselling
- Peel Community Legal Service: areas of advice include family law and domestic and family violence
- Scales Community Legal Centre: areas of advice include family and domestic violence and tenancy
- South West Community Legal Centre, including the Domestic Violence Legal Service: areas of advice include family law and restraining orders
- Southern Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention Legal Service for Aboriginal adults and children in the South West and Great Southern regions of Western Australia who are victims of family violence and/or sexual assault: areas of advice include family and domestic violence, family law (children’s issues) and violence restraining orders
- Tenancy WA: areas of advice include residential tenancy matters
- Women’s Legal Service WA: areas of advice include family law, violence restraining orders, and protection and care (child protection) matters. The Women’s Legal Service also incorporates Djinda Services, a specialist Perth Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention Legal Service run in partnership with Relationships Australia
- Wheatbelt Community Legal Centre: areas of advice include family law and tenancy advocacy
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.
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 helpTOP
Legal Aid have also developed some self-help online programmes, including information on how to represent yourself at a restraining order hearing.
You can find more information about representing yourself at the Legal Aid website.