S86 Contact Applications

If your child has been removed from your care, it can be a distressing and traumatic experience. The time you spend with your child will likely be significantly reduced and restrictions on your contact may be imposed.

If you are a party to a matter currently before the Children’s Court, you may make an application for contact orders with the Court.

If you do not have a current matter before the Children’s Court, you can still make an application for contact orders, with the permission of the Court, if you were a party to previous care proceedings or you consider yourself to have a sufficient interest in the child’s welfare.

Significant Change

The Court may grant permission, otherwise known as leave, if there has been a significant change in any relevant circumstances since a Final Order was made. What is considered a significant change depends on the circumstances of the case at the time of Final Orders.

Examples of significant change may include:

  • A parent’s contact with a child ceasing;
  • A parent’s contact with a child being reduced;
  • A parent remaining abstinent from drugs/alcohol, engaging in counselling and engaging in parenting courses and seeking unsupervised or increased contact.

Participation in Mediation

Before the Court grants permission to hear your application, the Court must consider whether there has been an attempt to reach an agreement about contact arrangements by participating in alternative dispute resolution. This is known as a section 86 contact mediation. The Court can also order parties to participate in dispute resolution. Section 86 contact mediations are conducted by the Legal Aid ADR unit. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the Legal Aid ADR unit has deferred all current contact mediations until July 2020.

Contact Orders

If leave is granted, the Court then needs to consider what contact arrangements will properly meet the needs of the child. The Court will need to consider the particular circumstances of the case and will need to balance the benefits and risks of contact, with arrangements that in the child’s best interests.

Where the Court has determined that there is no realistic possibility of restoration of your child to your care, the Court can only make a contact order for a maximum period of 12 months. 

The Children’s Court Contact Guidelines contact provide a list of matters which may be relevant for the Court in making a determination about contact. These matters include:

  • What is in the best interests of the child?
  • What is the purpose of contact? 
  • How old and at what developmental stage is the child?
  • What are the child’s wishes regarding contact? How does the child react to contact that is occurring? 
  • How healthy is the attachment or relationship between children and their birth parents? How long was the child in the care of the parent before removal from their care? How does the parent behave at contact? Has the parent failed to attend contact without good reason?
  • What are the practical considerations? Is there a substantial distance to be travelled? Are the limitations on people travelling to contact, such as finances or transport? Will there be disruption caused to the child or the household in which the child is living?
  • What are the arrangements for contact with siblings, extended family and other significant people?
  • What indirect contact arrangements are in place?
  • Are there special events that should be provided for, such as birthdays or religious and cultural events?
  • Are there real risks to the safety, welfare and wellbeing of the child? Should the contact be supervised? Who should supervise the contact? 

We can assist you with any section contact mediations and any applications for contact orders with the Court. Contact NLS Law Today

Jessica Fordham, Associate Solicitor, NLS Law