When a parent or significant person in a child’s life (such as a grandparent) makes an application to the court for time spending with a child, the best interests of the child will be the Courts primary consideration.
Once an application has been made, it is likely that orders will be made for time spending except when it would be contrary to the child’s best interests to facilitate the child spending time with that parent.
Where there is a concern for the child’s well-being under a parent’s care, due to circumstances such as family violence, substance abuse, or lack of parenting skills, the court will usually make an order for supervised contact.
Supervised contact means that the Court wants a responsible third-party present when a parent spends time with the child. Supervised time can be ordered because the child has not seen the parent for a time, and the Court thinks that a gradual reintroduction will be in the child’s best interests. Or, it may be that concerns have been raised causing the Court to have fears about the child’s safety in that parent’s care.
Supervised visits can be conducted either by a nominated individual supervisor or by a children’s contact service.
Supervised time with a Nominated Supervisor
Where an individual person is nominated to supervise a parent’s time spending with a child, that person appointed as supervisor will be specified in the court orders.
In most circumstances the other parent is typically not appointed as a supervisor, but there are cases where the parents will make an agreement that one parent can visit with the child, for instance, while the other parent is close by.
The Legal Services Commission has created a brochure titled ‘Should I Supervise Contact’. Often the courts will require this document to be provided to any person that agrees to act as supervisor. The Court may then require that person to file an Affidavit of Supervision confirming that they have read this brochure, that they understand their role as a supervisor and that they willing to supervise such time.
Supervised Time at a Children’s Contact Service (CCS)
If the parties are unable to agree on a suitable person to supervise time spending, or the Court determines that an individual supervisor is not appropriate in the circumstances, an order may be made for the parent to spend time with the child at a Children’s Contact Service.
Both Relationships Australia and Anglicare run a variety of children’s contact services across the various metropolitan areas of Adelaide.
Children’s Contact Services provide a neutral environment focused on the child and not the dispute of the parents before the Court. Visits are supervised by contact center staff and upon request of the Court, a report can be provided as to the progress of those visits.
Due to the popularity of these services, parties may need to be placed on a wait list causing a delay in the commencement of any visits. In circumstances where the delays are significant, the Court may make an order for time spending to be supervised by a nominated person until a position at the contact service becomes available.
It is also important to note that contact center’s services are not offered free of charge and involve fees associated with the intake; subscription fee for supervised visits and fees associated with producing a written report. These fees can be offered at a reduced rate for those with valid concession entitlements.
When supervised visits are ordered by the Court, it is often a temporary situation, and the parent will often progress to unsupervised visits once the concerns of the court have been alleviated.
How to Seek an Order for Supervised Time
A parent can apply to the court to order the other parent to have supervision during visits with the child. The application must include thorough information about the circumstances of the child’s relationship with that parent, detailed information as to any risks that parent poses to the health, safety or welfare of the child and a detailed proposal for supervised access.