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Federal Budget 2011: Budget must bail out family law
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Federal Budget 2011: Budget must bail out family law

Parties to family law disputes will be unable to access legal representation unless the Federal Budget delivers a boost to legal aid funding, says the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV).

Parties to family law disputes will be unable to access legal representation unless the Federal Budget delivers a boost to legal aid funding, says the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV).

LIV president Caroline Counsel said the funding situation at Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) is so dire that the organisation is proposing that legal aid to parents in litigation be ceased. VLA would still provide one legal aid representative for children.

The LIV and Victorian Bar both support the Law Council of Australia (LCA) budget submission which calls for $66 million in this year's Budget if we are to see a return the pre-1997 levels of Federal contribution to legal aid.

Counsel also called on VLA to allocate additional resources to family law legal aid.

"Despite last year's $92.3 million over four years allocated to legal aid, not one cent is flowing to providing extra family law services in Victoria," she said.

"Instead, under its proposed Family Law Eligibility Guidelines, legal aid is merely re-slicing the existing inadequate pie."

From July this year, VLA intends to fund more Independent Children's Lawyers at the expense of funding to parents involved in a dispute.

"This proposal will see an increase in unrepresented litigants and is bound to disadvantage vulnerable women who cannot afford a private lawyer," said Counsel.

"The shift away from funding parents will result in further court delays, more appeals, more costs and it is likely that children will suffer as a result of increased parental conflict."

Counsel added that the Federal Government has a duty to properly fund legal aid and VLA must reconsider its priorities to ensure whole families receive legal representation.

Reporting live from Parliament House in Canberra on Budget Night (May 10), teams from Capital Monitor and Lawyers Weekly will be keeping you up-to-date on the key announcements and industry reaction on this site as it happens, as well as on our special Federal Budget microsite: www.lexisnexis.com.au/federal-budget where you can sign up for our free Federal Budget e-newsletter -- delivering all the Budget news & analysts direct to your inbox on budget night.

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