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2.2.19 Working with the Family Court in the Context of Child Protection Matters

Last Modified: 24-Mar-2022 Review Date: 30-Nov-2010

 ‭(Hidden)‬ Legislation

Overview

To provide child protection workers (CPWs) with guidance on working with the Family Court of Western Australia (Family Court) in the context of child protection matters.

Rules

Form 4 Notice of Child Abuse and/or Family Violence (or Risk) (the Notice)

Upon receipt of Form 4 Notices, you must:

  • undertake an assessment of the concerns reported within the Notice as per current practice guidance.

  • complete a written response to the Notice using relevant templates (AAA 995 to 998) within six weeks of receiving it.

  • email the Family Court requesting an extension within 21 calendar days of receiving a Notice should more time be required to complete the assessment and report within the six-week time frame (Form 994).

  • discuss the outcome of the assessment with the family before submitting the response to the Family Court. 

  • seek the approval of the response from your team leader and endorsement by the district director before submitting for filing at the Family Court using the familycourt.form4ref@cpfs.wa.gov.au mailbox.

  • be aware that Form 4 Notice reports are made available to the parties in Family Court proceedings, which can include the parents, extended family members and the Independent Children's Lawyer (ICL); AND, only include information about either parent that relates to the child's current circumstances.

  • check that the response to the Form 4 Notice does not contain information that identifies the notifier or is likely to lead to the identification of the notifier, or, from which the identity of the notifier could be deduced, unless the notifier is the person who filed the Notice and has included this information in the affidavit filed with the Notice.

  • where required, include information on the outcome of assessment interviews for the Family Court, but DO NOT include children's direct/verbatim disclosure or excerpts of Child Assessment Interviews.

If you have significant concerns about a parent or family member, AND, become aware that they are making an application for a Family Court parenting order, AND you consider that there is information that may be relevant to the Family Court, you must:

  • contact the Department's Family Court of WA Co-located Officers (Co-located Officers) via telephone (08) 9224 8253 or email FamilyCourtWA.Team@Communities.wa.gov.au to:

    • provide the full names, addresses and dates of birth of the parents, child and any other significant persons (or the existing Family Court file (PTW) number) to check whether an application has been made, or is on foot; and,

    • determine the most effective way to provide the information to the Court.

Where the Department decides to support a parent or family member seeking Family Court parenting orders, AND, where it has been assessed that there are ongoing child protection concerns, and that the child's safety could be secured by supporting a party to apply for a Family Court parenting order, you must:

  • send an email to the co-located officers via FamilyCourtWA.Team@Communities.wa.gov.au advising that an application is likely to be filed, and providing a letter, report or memorandum that clearly sets out the Department's assessment and support for the application, and,

  • work cooperatively with the Family Court and manage the case at least until an interim parenting order is granted.

Where the Department decides to initiate child protection proceedings in the Children's Court, or such proceedings are already underway in the Children's Court during Family Court proceedings, you must:

  • email FamilyCourtWA.Team@Communities.wa.gov.au and counselling.services@justice.wa.gov.au and include the current circumstances, decisions and rationale, AND,

  • the district legal support officer (LSO) must inform the Family Court immediately if the Department decides to not pursue the protection application.

When there is a protection order in place and the Department supports a party to apply for a Family Court parenting order, you must:

  • consult with Legal and Business Services when matters are transferred from the Children's Court to the Family Court and vice versa.  Submit a request for consultation through the SharePoint Request Form page.  Complete the request form, attach required document using the 'Add Attachment' link, and select 'Duty Lawyer' button.  Then select 'Yes' from the drop down menu 'Submit to Legal & Business Services' at the end of the form and save it to lodge the request.  

  • when the Department has been granted a provisional protection order by the Children's Court and makes a case planning decision to support a party to apply for a Family Court parenting order, the district's LSO must, as soon as practicable, inform the Family Court.

  • When the Department has been granted a protection order by the Children's Court, and makes a case planning decision to support a party to apply for a parenting order, the district's LSO must inform the Family Court of this at least three months before the protection order expires, and include the Department's assessment and reasons for supporting the party's application.

Information and Instructions

  • Background
  • Relevant roles in the Family Court
  • Exchange of information initiated by the Family Court
  • Exchange of information initiated by the Department
  • Information or referral to Legal Aid
  • Background

    The Family Law Act 1975 encourages separating parents to make their own arrangements for their children wherever possible. It is critical that the Family Court Western Australia has all relevant information to enable the Court to make appropriate decisions in the best interests of the child.

    A Memorandum of Understanding between the Family Court, the Department for Child Protection and Legal Aid Western Australia (click here) guides interagency collaboration between the agencies in relation to Family Court proceedings.

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    Relevant roles in the Family Court

    Family Consultant

    Family Consultants are appointed as officers of the Court and undertake risk assessment, case management, mediation, counselling, and reporting as required under the Family Law and Family Court Acts, giving particular attention to the protection and safety of children, family violence and related issues.

    Family Consultants facilitate mandatory reporting to the Department of child abuse and neglect and/or family violence matters for the Court, and in the ongoing management of cases interact directly with Department staff, or through the co-located Family Court Liaison Officer at the Court.

    Department's co-located officers

    The Department's co-located officers coordinate information sharing between the Family Court and the Department, including matters in the Children's Court. The co-located officers are based  at the Family Court and can be contacted on (08) 9224 8253 or FamilyCourtWA.Team@communities.wa.gov.au

    Independent Children’s Lawyer

    The role of the Independent Children’s Lawyer is set out in s.165 of the Family Court of WA Act 1997 and s.68LA of the Family Law Act 1975.

    Child protection workers should provide all relevant information (s.23) to the Independent Children’s Lawyer.

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    Exchange of information initiated by the Family Court

    Request for information resulting from a recovery order application

    The Family Court may request urgent information from the Department about an application for a recovery order.  These requests are made directly to the co-located officers or the relevant Department work unit.  The Department must advise the allocated Family Consultant, in writing, using a memorandum template Form 990, or verbally, whether the Department has any relevant information in relation to the application.

    Pre section 202K order (Family Court of WA ACt 1997 and 69ZW order (Family Law Act 1975)

    The Family Consultant, or, if unavailable, the ICL, may request information from the Department to make an informed decision regarding the welfare of a child.  These requests are sent to the co-located officers, or, if the case is open, you, using Form 990.  You must complete a duty interaction in Assist and the memorandum filed in the client Objective file.  Relevant information that should be forwarded to the Family Court includes: 

    • whether the Department has a file in relation to the matter

    • the date that the file was opened

    • the Department's most recent assessment in relation to the matter

    • the current status of any ongoing action

    • the estimated timeframe for the completion of those interventions

    • to the extent practicable, the nature of the documents on the Department's files.

    Section 202K order (Family Court of WA Act 1997) and 69ZW order (Family Law Act 1975)

    Subsequent to a pre section 69ZW order, the Family Court may require specific documents by order of the Court. These orders are forwarded to Legal and Business Services, who subsequently provide the documents to the Family Court.

    Subpoena the child's file

    The Family Court may subpoena the child's file. These requests are forwarded to Legal and Business Services, who subsequently provide the file to the Family Court.

    Form 4 Notice of Child Abuse or Family Violence (or Risk) (Form 4 Notice)

    An applicant or respondent to a family law proceeding who alleges child abuse, neglect, or family and domestic violence, or the risk of these, is required to file a Form 4 Notice with the Family Court.

    Family Court personnel and/or the Family Consultant are also required to submit a Form 4 Notice to us if they suspect, on reasonable grounds, that a child has been subjected to, or is at risk of being subjected to, abuse and/or family violence.

    All Form 4 Notices are emailed to the co-located officers, who undertake an initial assessment, applying the Interaction Tool as required.  Depending on the outcome of their initial assessment, the co-located officers will:

    • respond to the Form 4 Notice providing the Court with an assessment report, or advice of no further action required, or,

    • forward the Form 4 Notice to the relevant work unit if it relates to an open case, or to a case in a regional office, or,

    • forward the Form 4 Notice to the Central Intake Team for Initial Inquiries.

    The assessment process for a Form 4 Notice is the same as that of any allegation of abuse or neglect. Refer to Chapter 2.2 Conducting a Child Safety Investigation for further information.

    You should include the family's views of the concerns and their willingness to increase safety for the children, and include the following in the response:  

    • The Family Court PTW (file) number, district office, date the Form 4 Notice was received, and child and family name in the first paragraph of the report

    • a summary of the reasons for involvement, action taken, assessment and analysis, key decisions and rationale (including if harm was substantiated) and resulting plan

    • approval by the team leader and endorsement by the district director

    • the signature of the assessing child protection worker (approval by team leader and endorsement by district director).

    You may also give a view on the need for supervised contact or other actions, such as possible treatment or social services that may address the current concerns.  Do not make recommendations to the Family Court but rather request that the Court takes into consideration the Department's findings in relation to the particular body of work that led to our view about "live with" (custody) and/or "spend time with" (contact) arrangements.

    Note:  The Family Court does not require detailed disclosures from the child (excerpts from interview transcripts should not be included in our response).  If the Family Court needs exact details of the child's disclosure, this can be dealt with through the formal subpoena process. 

    The Family Court gives significant weight to the Department's assessment and the position it takes in response to a Form 4 Notice, particularly in regard to identified risks.  As a result, you must complete a comprehensive assessment and provide a clear rationale for their decisions.

    Use the relevant form when responding to Form 4 Notifications:

    Recording in Assist

    You must record Form 4 Notices in Assist as a duty interaction with the:

    • Outcome: Concern for a Child

    • Next Action: Intake - as an open period of involvement with the following codes in the interaction for each child:

      • Protocol: Family Court

      • Issue:  Note - there is the capacity to record more than one issue.

    If the referral or contact is in relation to a request for information (only), an interaction must be completed with:

    • Referral agency: Family Court

    • Referrer name: Enter the name of the Family Court Officer

    • Description: Describe the presenting issue and what is being requested

    • Issues: As above

    • Referral to external agency: This is a task and must be recorded as an interaction task.

    If the matter requires further analysis and assessment the CPW should follow normal initial inquiries (intake) and CSI processes in Assist.

    Complex cases

    In complex cases, you should, where necessary, participate in ongoing case discussions with the Family Consultant, the judicial officer or the ICL, to resolve issues and assist the Family Court to make appropriate orders.

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    Exchange of information initiated by the Department

    Where the Department supports a client to apply for a parenting order where there are ongoing child protection concerns

    In addition to providing a letter/report, you must also participate in proceedings as required or ordered by the Family Court.  Where necessary, you must be available to attend the first court appearance (in person, via video link or telephone) in the Family Court or provide a written report to the Family Court stating the Department's position (including contact and care arrangements).

    You need to follow up to check that an application has been made. If the application has not been made, you should consider whether statutory protection action and/or family support may be required.

    The Department must maintain case management at least until an interim parenting order is granted. If safety issues have been addressed the case may be closed and the Family Court advised accordingly. Where you are concerned about a lengthy resolution of Family Court matters, you should contact the allocated Family Consultant at the Family Court.

    Where the Department becomes aware that a parent or family member they have been working with is going to apply for a Family Court parenting order:

    You may need to share relevant information with the Family Court when you become aware that a parent or family member that you have been working with, and about whom there are significant historical concerns, is applying for a Family Court parenting order. You should first check with the Co-located officers whether a Family Court file exists or is available on site before sending the information to the Court.

    After the written information is sent to the Family Court, the Family Consultant may contact the district office that made the notification to seek relevant information from the Department, or invite you to attend the next Family Court event. The Family Court will provide a copy of this information to the Legal Aid duty lawyer service.

    When a person applies for legal assistance concerning a Family Court parenting order and advises that the Department is involved, Legal Aid may contact the relevant district office to confirm its involvement.  This information is used to assist Legal Aid to determine whether a grant of aid is issued.

    Requesting copies of Family Court orders

    You must make requests for copies of Family Court documents in writing to the Co-located officers via the FamilyCourtWA.Team@Communities.wa.gov.au mailbox.

    You must provide the following information in the email:

    • full name and contact details of person requesting the order

    • full names of the applicant and respondent, including birth dates, if known

    • court file (PTW) number, if known

    • details of the documents) being requested, and

    • a brief summary of the reason for the request, or a statement of interest.

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    Information or referral to Legal Aid

    Family Law and Child Protection Legal Assistance in WA

    Where appropriate, you should advise parents, carers, or the child (age and maturity permitting) on the need to be fully informed and that they may seek independent legal advice via:

    Where clients present to the duty officer with Family Court issues and there are no ongoing child protection concerns, advise the client to contact an appropriate Legal Aid Service by telephoning 1300 650 579.

    If the duty officer believes the client needs urgent assistance they should contact the Legal Aid Lawyer at the Family Court on 9224 8390.

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