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>> PRESENTER: If you want to use Legal Aid Queensland’s dispute resolution service you will need to get legal advice about your situation and then apply for a grant of legal aid.
Legal aid for a conference is available to anyone who meets the means and merit tests.
If your application is successful Legal Aid Queensland will write to the other parent and invite them to the dispute resolution conference. The other parent can attend the conference on their own, with a private lawyer or with a Legal Aid lawyer if they have been granted legal aid. The other parent has to agree to attend the conference before it can go ahead. If the other parent won’t attend, Legal Aid Queensland can give you a certificate so you can go to court.
Before the conference, both parents will be asked to complete an assessment sheet, which will outline your situation and allow Legal Aid Queensland to tailor a process to suit you.
Some of the options available are conferencing where everyone is in the same room; shuttle conferencing – which is where the parents are in different rooms and use the dispute resolution practitioner to communicate with each other and resolve the issues; phone or videoconference.
These options allow you different types of communication depending on your circumstances.
Issues that can be decided during the conference include who the children will live with and spend time with, how holidays and special occasions will be spent, education planning, forward and long-term planning for decisions in the future, and finances.
[Conference with Legal Aid Representative, NATASHA, and couple JENNY and JOHN. JENNY and JOHN in two separate rooms, using shuttle communication technique.]
>> JENNY: My kids need me, and I don’t want to work because it means I won’t be able to look after them properly.
>> NATASHA: Ok Jenny, I hear what you are saying and John has already agreed the children will spend five nights a week with you until they reach high school.
[NATASHA walks to another room, JOHN is waiting]
>> NATASHA [Continues]: John do you have any other concerns about the children and the time you’ll spend with them that you want to talk about at the moment?
>> JOHN: Well, all I want is the best for the kids.
I don’t really want them raised by strangers either. Like, if I get to see them, like, two nights a week, I’m happy. And I wouldn’t mind getting involved with their school activities and be at child care. And… basically, if their grandparents can see them sometimes at home, that would be great.
[End of Conference]
>> PRESENTER: At the end of the conference, if you reach agreement the lawyers will draft consent orders and give legal advice to the parents before the orders are finalised and lodged with the court.
All these services are provided as part of the legal aid grant.