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It is generally not in the interests of a child or their family, that there are proceedings in both a family court and the Childrens Court.
Child Safety, as the agency with statutory responsibility for child protection, decides the jurisdiction in which the protective concerns should be determined. The Court Services Unit must be consulted about the most appropriate forum for determination of matters in each case.
When deciding in which court the matter should proceed, refer to the practice resource Working with family courts and consider matters such as:
- which court is likely to provide the most timely and effective solution to secure the safety and well-being of the child
- will the child's need for protection be established and/or can the child's well-being be more effectively assured through parenting orders
- can the protective concerns be alleviated by a change in parenting orders
- is there an appropriate parent or carer able and willing to lodge an application to establish or vary parenting orders.
At times, the CSSC might be asked by a parent to provide a Statement of position letter, in respect of a prospective family court application. The provision of this letter may assist the parent in their application for legal aid funding, however, the letter may also be provided at any time during family court proceedings.
Decision-making about whether to support an application being made in a family court by a protective parent should not be premature, but rather based on a sound decision-making framework supported by relevant evidence, based on a thorough assessment by Child Safety of both parents. Child Safety will be required to provide a comprehensive level of evidence to a family court, including the rationale for its decision-making. The assessment by Child Safety will include considerations about residence and contact, as the family court will need to consider both in making any parenting orders.
The decision to provide documentation to a parent initiating family court proceedings will be made by a team leader, senior practitioner or CSSC manager.
The 'Statement of position letter' is not intended to favour one particular parent over another. It will outline the nature of the current Child Safety involvement with the child and family and the current risk assessment of each parent. It will also outline Child Safety's position should certain orders be made by the family court.
When a parent requests the provision of a 'Statement of position letter':
- liaise with the Court Services Unit to:
- determine the appropriateness of issuing the letter, based on the circumstances of the case
- assist with the drafting of the letter
- ensure that both parents are informed of the decision about providing a 'Statement of position letter' and where possible, record this decision in the case plan for the child
- provide the draft letter to the Court Services Unit and incorporate any feedback provided
- the completed letter must be signed by the CSSC manager
- forward a copy of the signed letter to both parents, Court Services Unit and if applicable, the Independent Children's Lawyer.