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.
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:
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.
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:
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