The Adelaide Legal Outreach Service (ALOS) commenced the year with a full day of appointments with both existing and new clients. We continue to assist clients in housing matters, and in particular with bond issues. Interestingly, we have seen both landlords and tenants seeking advice.
Of particular interest was the assistance provided to a client seeking consent orders from the Family Court. In this instance, the court had made previous final orders 4 years ago in which the parties were given equal shared parental responsibility.
The parties now agreed to alter the orders, giving our client sole parenting responsibility, which is contrary to the presumption of shared responsibility described in s61DA of the Family Law Act 1975.
We were able to assist the client with a credible affidavit and application and to negotiate the Respondent’s agreement.
This matter is interesting because we are beginning to see a significant increase in Family Law matters, perhaps due to the high cost of litigation in this jurisdiction reflecting an increase in Self Represented litigants.
Our students also assisted a client in a dispute with a major energy supplier. Following research, review of advertising material and the contract, our client was advised to pay the amount owing, as he had little prospect of defending any claim in the minor civil jurisdiction. Put simply he had failed to comprehend his initial agreement.
We were also able to assist this client with another account issued by the same creditor. On this occasion, we advised the client not to pay the balance of the account until we were able to contact the creditor.
Following a letter from the Service, the supplier admitted that the account had been issued to our client in error, something that they had failed to bring to his attention on previous occasions.
Summer semester students also met with His Honour Judge Paul Slattery of the District Court. His Honour outlined his concerns regarding the ease with which simple disputes were unnecessarily escalated to litigation, and the lack of understanding of court processes by self represented litigants.
As a result of that meeting, the students undertook a project that identified the key issues faced by self-represented litigants and were able to identify customisable software that can assist individuals with all stages of the dispute and litigation process. An implementation plan is being developed.