Dispute Resolution at Legal Aid WA
What matters can qualify for a conference?
Legal Aid WA's Dispute Resolution service covers disputes about children and parenting and also dividing property and finances.
Conferences about children's issues usually involve separated parents, but can include other people if they have an interest in the care and well-being of the children. Property conferences are only for people who were married or in a de facto relationship with each other and have separated.
If a matter qualifies for conferences for both children and property issues, the conferences will take place separately. Where possible, the same chairperson will be used for each conference.
The conference will only go ahead if all the other participants agree to be involved. Conferences through our service can be held at location outside of the Perth metropolitan area, and it may also be possible to participate by telephone or video link if necessary.
How does Legal Aid WA check if a dispute is suitable for a conference?
To qualify for a conference with Legal Aid WA's Dispute Resolution service, one of the participants must qualify for a grant of aid.
Legal Aid WA has highly trained and skilled assessors, who will talk separately to you and the other participants to decide whether the program is suitable for your situation.
The assessor will consider the individual circumstances of each person involved, including:
- any history of family violence or risk of child abuse
- the safety of each participant
- how well you can negotiate with the other person, and
- the emotional, psychological and physical health of each person.
A history or risk of family violence does not automatically stop matters being able to proceed to a Dispute Resolution conference. However, client safety is a priority for Legal Aid WA. The assessor will discuss your individual circumstances with you to see if the matter is suitable for a conference and to discuss how that can be appropriately conducted.
How much does it cost to participate in the Dispute Resolution service?
There is no fixed fee for the Dispute Resolution service. Depending on the financial circumstances of everyone involved in the conference, we may charge a financial contribution towards the cost of the conference. There may also be a contribution required under your grant of aid.
What if I don't have a lawyer?
We will ask about this when we are assessing a matter to see if it is suitable for a Dispute Resolution conference. If you do not have a lawyer and your matter qualifies for this service, we will provide you with a lawyer under a grant of aid. You may be asked to make a contribution towards the cost of that grant, depending on your circumstances.
The lawyer will be able to:
- give you family law advice and help you prepare for the conference
- attend the conference with you, and
- help you put any agreements into writing.
What happens at the end of a conference?
If you reach an agreement, the lawyers involved will normally write it out. Before anything is signed, you will have the chance to check it with your lawyer to make sure you are happy and understand what it involves.
Your lawyer will be able to give you advice about whether the agreement should be filed at the Family Court and made into consent orders, or if a parenting plan is more suitable for your situation.
If you don't reach an agreement, the chairperson may issue a certificate allowing you to start court proceedings in the Family Court. The chairperson will also make a recommendation about further funding, including a grant of aid for representing someone in Family Court proceedings, or to fund an Independent Children's Lawyer.
The chairperson may also refer you to other organisations that can help you with your family law issues. These may include:
- community mediation services
- counselling services, or
- financial counselling services.
To find out more about participating in Legal Aid WA's Dispute Resolution service, you can call the Infoline on 1300 650 579.
Reviewed: 2 May 2018