With the help of legal aid, single mother Alice might have avoided having her young child taken away for three weeks and unnecessary charges against her former partner avoided.

 

Alice is a 19-year-old single mother, with a three-year-old child, living in regional Victoria.

Her relationship with the child’s father was violent and she obtained an intervention order against him. Later, however, Alice decides to reconcile and she seeks to discharge the order.

She is told at her Community Legal Centre that it cannot open files, and she is advised to attend at the local Court.

She does, and is given a form to complete that is incomprehensible to her. So she asks a deputy registrar to complete the form for her. She is then told that the Court will arrange for the police to be served.

She is given a document which advises her to attend Court on a particular day when her application will be heard. But Alice cannot read the paper, so she leaves it on the seat and departs.

Alice is relieved that the process has gone so smoothly and she calls her partner and tells him she’s “done it.”

They move in together that afternoon, but two days later, a neighbour who witnessed the previous violence notifies the Department of Health and Human Services that the perpetrator is back living with Alice.

The DHHS notify the local police of a clear breach of the intervention order.

Alice’s partner is arrested and charged and bailed with strict conditions. The DHHS apprehend Alice’s three-year-old, on the basis that Alice has permitted the perpetrator of violence to come into contact with the child.

Result: criminal charges against the partner, a protection application hearing before the Children’s Court, and an interim accommodation order meaning a three-year-old is without her mum for three weeks.

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