Gaps in Service Provision
Local Court of New South Wales
The following information has been copied from a fact sheet prepared by the Attorney General's Department and is for general information purposes only. While every care has been taken to ensure its accuracy, you should seek independent legal advice about your case.
Getting help with legal and court matters
The NSW Attorney General’s Department acknowledges that legal and court matters can sometimes be confusing and people may be unsure how to get help.
This information sheet will help you find your way, highlighting the services of NSW Local Courts and LawAccess.
If you have matters before the court, you are encouraged to seek independent legal advice. Law Access NSW can give you free legal information on ph: 1300 888 529 (TTY 1300 889 529).
LawAccess NSW is the central contact point for people who have a legal problem in NSW. It operates between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays).
LawAccess NSW can help you find the legal information or the assistance you require. The service provides legal information, referrals, and in some cases legal advice, working closely with Legal Aid NSW, Community Legal Centres, the Law Society of NSW, the NSW Bar Association and courts in NSW.
LawAccess NSW can also direct you to a local court or another agency if your matter requires assistance regarding procedure or process. LawAccess may also refer you to other services when you require legal advice or face-to-face assistance.
How local court staff can help
Staff at local court registries can give you information about your court matter and court forms. People telephoning a local court may first be transferred to LawAccess NSW for information and referral options. In some instances, LawAccess may refer you back to the court registry for specific advice in relation to local courts process and procedure.
Court registry staff can help you:
- apply for a domestic violence order
- apply for urgent apprehended violence orders including when there has been an injury to the person and/or damage to their property
- when local court proceedings have commenced (eg. civil claims)
- when an agency such as a community legal centre has provided you with advice and referred you to the local court for information or assistance with forms
- when telephone assistance may be difficult
- witness court documents.
Most full-time local court registries have a registrar or deputy registrar who can provide information, assistance and guidance to members of the public on local court procedures and applications. This is called the chamber service. The chamber service does not provide legal advice and cannot represent people in court.
The chamber service may be available by appointment at your local court, depending on the nature of the inquiry and the availability of the senior registry officer.
Contact the local court registry (by phone or in person) to find out if staff can assist you directly, whether your enquiry could be best answered by Law Access, or if you need to speak to the chamber service.
Local court staff and the chamber service can help you prepare some court documents for matters to be heard by a local court, including:
- applications to commence proceedings (including Statements of Claim for civil proceedings) where the cause of action is straight forward
- apprehended domestic and personal violence applications
- defences, notices of motion to stay proceedings and set aside judgment in civil actions (but not advice on what to say in support of a defence or motion)
- family law applications
- Family Law recovery orders in limited circumstances, primarily in country locations where no other service is available.
Local court staff cannot help people seeking assistance or advice on:
- drafting complex applications or documents
- affidavits, deeds of settlement or their equivalent in any jurisdiction. You may need to seek legal advice for these matters.
- forms to be lodged in the Family Law Courts (ph: 1300 352 000 or visit www.familylawcourts.gov.au) or the Federal Court of Australia (ph: (02) 9230 8567 or visit www.fedcourt.gov.au)
- forms to be lodged with the Child Support Agency (ph: 131 272).
To locate your nearest local court, visit the website: www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/lc. If you need an interpreter, call the NSW State Government Translating and Interpreter Service on ph: 131 450 and ask them to put you through to LawAccess NSW.
Free government telephone service providing legal information, advice and referrals for people who have a legal problem in NSW, including family law.
Customers can call LawAccess, and the Customer Service Officers can:
- give legal information to assist with the problem
- arrange for a Legal Officer to provide legal advice over the phone if the customer meets the guidelines refer to another legal service
- send out relevant information
- discuss eligibility for Legal Aid and assist with making an application
Priority customers for legal advice include customers who:
- are in regional or rural NSW
- are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
- have a disability
- are from a non- English speaking background
- are at risk of harm
(From LawAccess online — http://info.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au/lawaccess/lawaccess.nsf/pages/about_us)
Legal Aid NSW
Telephone advice is offered through LawAccess.
Face to face Family Law advice is offered by Legal Aid NSW and is not means tested, and clients do not need to apply for a grant of legal aid to receive free legal advice.
Family Law advice is available without appointment at head office in Sydney. Parramatta office has clinic days for family law advice. For other locations, an appointment needs to be made.
General assistance with forms may be given as "minor assistance" (part of an advice session).
(Family Law advice — www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au/asp/index.asp?pgid=586)
Legal Aid NSW will grant legal aid in family law matters where:
- the matter falls within policy
- the applicant meets the Means Test
- the matter meets the merit test
- the applicant meets the relevant Availability of Funds Test
The applicant will also probably need to pay a contribution.
Drafting of affidavits is undertaken as part of a grant of aid for representation.
(Legal Aid Policy Online for Family Law matters — www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au/asp/index.asp?pgid=758&cid=993&policyid=1&chapterid=23)
Family Law Duty Solicitor Schemes operate at all registries of the Family Court to assist unrepresented litigants. They are not subject to eligibility tests.
Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT)
As of 1 July 2008, the Aboriginal Legal Service family law practice will be closed, with the four family law solicitor positions (at Parramatta and Dubbo) being made redundant. Aboriginal people seeking advice and/or representation in family law will be referred to the relevant Legal Aid NSW office, LawAccess and /or local private solicitors who do legal aid work.
The cuts to the family law practice were due to there being no increase in Commonwealth funding.
The ALS Care Practice continues to be located at Parramatta, Dubbo (soon to be relocated to Armidale/ Tamworth), Grafton and Wagga Wagga offices.
Law Society of NSW Pro Bono Scheme
The Law Society Community Referral Service Pro Bono Scheme coordinates referrals of clients to law firms which are willing to provide legal assistance on a pro bono basis. The criteria for acceptance is as follows:
- the client must have been refused legal aid for the relevant proceedings
- a means and merit test is applied
- the matter must fall within the Scheme's guidelines
The guidelines include Family Law (limited to children's matters).
Details of the Pro Bono Scheme — www.lawsociety.com.au/page.asp?partID=6744
NSW Bar Association Legal Assistance Referral Scheme (LARS)
A person may apply to obtain legal assistance from members of the Bar under LARS at a reduced fee (negotiated between the applicant and barrister).
Applications go through a three stage process:
- Consideration of material provided by the applicant (including the application form which details the results of legal aid applications, income details (gross household income must not exceed $1000/ week))
- The Bar Council will consider whether the application has reasonable prospects of success
- The Bar Council will consider any other relevant matters (such as whether the conduct of the case would be in the public interest)
If the application is successful, LARS will take reasonable steps to find a barrister prepared to provide an advice on the matter (prospects of success or legal merit). If the barrister is willing to provide legal services to the applicant, the relationship between the LARS and applicant ceases.
For full details of the LARS application process — www.nswbar.asn.au/docs/legal_assist/lars.php
Family Court of Australia
The Family Court of Australia provides procedural information and general assistance with forms through their website, the National Enquiry Centre 1300 352 000, and via email. The National Enquiry Centre also provides assistance to family law clients of the Federal Magistrates Court as part of the Combined Registry Project. http://www.familycourt.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/FCOA/Home
A duty solicitor service is available at the Family Court (Sydney Mon-Fri 9am-1pm and Parramatta Mon-Fri 9.30am-1pm). This service is provided by Legal Aid NSW and is open for assistance on the day and with referrals.
Community Legal Centres
Community legal centres are independent community organisations providing free legal services. Most legal centres can provide family law information, and the majority will also provide one-off advice (especially where children are involved). However, only a limited number provide representation and assistance with drafting affidavits.
A table detailing the family law services provided by each community legal centre is available.
Links to each community legal centre: http://www.clcnsw.org.au/