Family Law Court Supervised time (or contact/access) – What is it?

Family Law Court Supervised time (or contact/access) – What is it?

Family Law Court Supervised Time

The Family Law Act 1975 places a significant emphasis on the need to maintain a meaningful relationship between children and each of their parents. But, this balances with the need to protect children from any risk of harm. The concept of supervised time enables the Family Law Courts to balance these primary considerations through preserving the parent-child relationship in a safe environment where risks can be alleviated.

The Courts are likely to order supervised time in various situations, including where:

  •        The child may be placed at a risk of physical or psychological harm, through spending time with a parent alleged to be violent;
  •        There is a risk of child sexual abuse; or
  •        The behaviour and conduct of a parent may not be in the best interests of the child (e.g. if the parent has       significant drug and/or alcohol addictions).

 

Who can be a supervisor?

The parent’s time with the child can be supervised by:

  •        Family and friends;
  •        Contact Centres; or
  •        Private supervision organisations.

It is not appropriate for the other parent to be the supervisor of the parent’s time with the child, given the potential for conflict.

Friends and family may supervise time between the parent and their child if this is mutually agreed between both parties or court ordered. However, time supervised by a friend or family member may not be an ideal situation for everyone, especially where an appropriate supervisor cannot be identified or agreed. It is crucial that the time between the parent and child is relaxed and comfortable, and for that reason it is generally appropriate for the supervisor to be a trusted relative or friend of the parent to be supervised. Often parents focus on their personal dislike of a potential supervisor, but the focus needs to be on that person’s capacity to provide the required supervision. Supervising time requires a substantial commitment by the supervisor, and so it is essential that the potential supervisor is willing and able to commit to the supervision.

Contact Centres receive government funding and thus offer supervision services at a discounted rate and in accordance with an income based test. Parties are required to undertake an intake assessment whereby the centre assesses the suitability of the service they provide to each particular case and proposed arrangement. Given the high demand for these services, parties are usually placed in a waiting list before supervised time can be commenced.

Most contact centres offer both indoor and outdoor play spaces and a range of age appropriate games including the provision craft materials and play equipment to engage children and provide parents with the opportunity to spend quality time with their children. In addition to supervising time, most contact centres also provide a variety of other services such as staggered arrival and departure times and supervised changeover in order to minimise contact between high conflict parents.

Private supervision organisations provide similar services to contact centres but, charge higher fees. However, private supervision organisations provide greater flexibility and more mobile services so parents and children are not confined to spending time within the premises of the supervision service provider.

A court order is typical, but not usually an actual requirement to access the services of a contact centre or private supervision organisation.

What are the duties of a supervisor?

The primary role of any supervisor is to ensure that children spend time with their parents in a safe environment where any risk of harm can be alleviated.

Supervisors are required to monitor all interaction and conversations between children and their parents. They must therefore be positioned within a close proximity to parents and children so that all interactions can be closely observed and monitored. It is pivotal for supervisors to be trained and well informed of what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate behaviour. When supervisors witness any inappropriate activity they need to act proactively and immediately cease time.

Professional supervisors usually take detailed notes on what is said during these supervised visits and on how the time progressed between the parent and child.

What can I do if the other parents seeks that my time is supervised?

Whilst spending supervised time with your child is not the ideal outcome it often provides parents with an opportunity to rebuild their relationship with their child and is definitely a more preferred outcome when compared with the prospect of no time with the child. Every situation has to be assessed individually given the uniqueness of every family. It is important to obtain specialist advice before agreeing to have your time with your child supervised.

Many people find the prospect of having their time with their child supervised to be humiliating or demeaning. There are often benefits to the parent whose time is to be supervised, primarily to protect that parent from further allegations of wrong doing during the course of the proceedings.

Supervision is usually only ordered on an interim (temporary) basis given the inherent difficulties in sustaining the arrangement in the long term.

 

If you are thinking about seeking an order for supervised time, or if this has been sought against you, it is essential that you obtain specialist advice as soon as possible. Contact our expert Sydney Family Lawyers for further information 02 9663 1088