19. The Intersection of Child Protection and Family Laws

Recommendation 19–1 Federal, state and territory governments should, as a matter of priority, make arrangements for child protection agencies to provide investigatory and reporting services to family courts in cases involving children’s safety. Where such services are not already provided by agreement, urgent consideration should be given to establishing specialist sections within child protection agencies to provide those services.

Recommendation 19–2 State governments should refer powers to enable the Australian Government to make laws allowing family courts to confer parental rights and duties on a child protection agency in cases where there is no other viable and protective carer. Family courts should have the power to join a child protection agency as a party in this limited class of cases.

Recommendation 19–3 Where a child protection agency investigates child abuse, locates a viable and protective carer and refers that carer to a family court to apply for a parenting order, the agency should, in appropriate cases:

(a) provide written information to a family court about the reasons for the referral;

(b) provide reports and other evidence; or

(c) intervene in the proceedings.

Recommendation 19–4 The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) should be amended to give children’s courts the same powers as magistrates courts.

Recommendation 19–5 Federal, state and territory governments should ensure the immediate and regular review of protocols between family courts, children’s courts and child protection agencies for the exchange of information to avoid duplication in the hearing of cases, and that a decision is made as early as possible about the appropriate court.