The Attorney-General’s Department is currently reviewing the 2007 court guidelines for the use of the children’s contact services. The guidelines are intended to inform contact services as to the circumstances in which the courts will refer families to the centres and to inform the courts as to the role of contact services.
Families are often referred to children’s contact services by the courts in circumstances such as:
• When one or both parents need to be supervised with the child or children;
• When there is a high degree of conflict between the parties and changeover needs to be supervised; or
• When there are issues such as family violence and changeover occurs without the parties having any contact whatsoever.
Children’s contact services are often able to provide a report to the courts about the supervised visits or changeovers which is often beneficial for both the court and other interested parties (such as an Independent Children’s Lawyer, if appointed) in determining the family dynamics and particular issues which may need to be resolved so as to ensure children are safe and not exposed to their parent’s conflict.
It is hoped that the revised guidelines will assist children’s contact services in considering children’s best interests including whether it is appropriate to continue with the use of the contact service. Contact centres are often able to inform the Independent Children’s Lawyer of their views in this regard. The guidelines may also be useful in assisting contact services with drafting their reports to the courts in the most effective manner.
The guidelines are likely to provide a structure for both the courts and contact centres to assist families in moving toward self-management of their. If it is in the child’s best interests, the aim for each referral to a contact service is for families to learn how to manage changeovers effectively and to facilitate time with the child or children until such time that the parties can co-parent amicably and responsibly and no longer need to use the service.