Pursuant to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), all children maintain the right to have contact with both their parents and any other significant persons in their lives on a regular basis, providing it does not jeopardise their best interests being met.
Both the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia are empowered to make orders only when the Court is satisfied that it is in the best interests of the child to do so.
In some instances when parties separate, it may be necessary for a parent to spend time with their child under supervision rather than on their own.
The parties can reach agreement between themselves for this time to be supervised or the Court may make an order which will include provision for supervision to take place. This is likely to happen in circumstances where there is a genuine risk of harm to the child when spending time with one of their parents or where there has been a significant breakdown of the relationship between the parent and the child.
Depending on the circumstances of the case, there are different types of orders which can be made regarding the supervision. The orders can either be very strict or they can be quite flexible depending on the circumstances of the matter. For example, a somewhat flexible order could be in terms that a grandparent supervise the time between the parent and the child at their home. In contrast, a strict and rather rigid order could require the parent to attend at a specified contact centre to spend time with the child under the supervision of the staff at that centre. The level of supervision required and the terms of the orders regarding that supervision will depend on the circumstances of the individual case.
In some instances, the child may need to redevelop a relationship with the parent and the purpose of the supervised contact is to build that relationship slowly in a safe, controlled environment.
In other cases where the separation has been particularly acrimonious, the parties may utilise the services of the supervised contact center to affect the changeovers to avoid any contact between the parties and ensure the child is not exposed to any further conflict.
Some of the circumstances in which an order may be made for supervised contact include:
- Where a parent has a drug or alcohol problem
- There has been serious neglect of the child by the parent
- There is a real risk of the parent absconding with the child
- There has been a lengthy hiatus in the relationship between the parent and the child
- There has been some form of abuse to the child by the parent
- The parent poses a risk to the child due to their mental health issues
Orders for supervised contact are usually made for a specific period of time to allow the parent to undertake certain courses and / or treatment, and in order for the relationship between the child and the parent to be nurtured such that any apparent risk to the child is no longer a concern.
You should seek specialist family law advice prior to agreeing to any arrangement for supervised time for your child. The family law team at Marino Law have extensive experience in such matters and can assist you should you find yourself in this position. To speak to one of our experienced family lawyers about your personal situation, please contact us on 07 5526 0157.