The ultimate goal of the Family Law Act of 1975 is to determine the child’s best interests. In situations where there are issues such as family violence, mental health issues or substance misuse, supervised time may be the most appropriate form of contact between the non-responsible parent and the child to ensure the safety and well-being of the child. This article explores the practical considerations surrounding the ‘Supervised Time’ concept and the objective behind making such parenting arrangements.
What is supervised time?
Supervised time or contact time refers to a privately agreed or court-ordered arrangement where a parent’s visit with her/his child is supervised. The objective is to create a secure environment for the child while allowing the non-responsible parent to maintain the relationship with her or his child. Supervised time is usually done through a third-party company that employs professional supervisors. When the family doesn’t want to engage a professional supervisor, they may agree to use a third party, such as a friend or a family member (such as a grandparent) to play the role.
Supervised time is governed by the Family Law Act 1975, which prioritises the child’s best interest in all family law matters. The guiding principle for decision-makers is the need to protect children from harm and domestic violence, taking into account factors such as the children’s view, their relationship with each parent and any risk of exposure to harm.
Time spent with the other parent should be enjoyable, but this must be balanced against the need to protect the child from harm or risk of harm. Therefore, it is crucial to determine the extent of various matters impacting the relationship between the parent and the child, such as violence, substance abuse, mental health or criminal behaviour.
Supervised time is usually ordered when concerns have been raised as to the safety of the child, causing the Court to have fears about the child’s safety in that parent’s care. Supervised time is also made when the child has not seen a parent for some time and the Court believes that gradual and safe monitored introduction will be in the child’s best interests. In these instances, the relationship between the parent and the child has broken down, and the child may need to redevelop a relationship with the parent. the purpose of the supervised contact is to build that relationship slowly in a safe, controlled environment.
How to seek supervised time order
In most cases, following a separation, parties can agree to have approved parenting consent orders or parenting plans put in place. These consent orders usually contain the agreed parenting arrangement, including the supervised time. Parents often agree that supervised time will occur for a certain period of time and then graduate to unsupervised time if the risk is alleviated by that time.
Alternatively, suppose the parents cannot agree to the supervised time arrangement. In that case, they may file an Application to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia to seek orders that the child’s time with the parent is supervised. The Court usually requires an in-depth assessment and specialist reports to assist the Court in making the decision to order supervised time. The court may also appoint an Independent Children’s Lawyer who will indicate to the court if they support such an order being made.
Types of supervised time
Supervised time types vary depending on the unique circumstances of each case. The following are the most common types of supervised time:
- Supervised handovers;
- Supervised telephone of video calls;
- Scheduled supervised visits either at a supervision centre or at an agreed location where the supervisor is happy to facilitate visits (such as a shopping centre or park).
As noted above, supervision can be done through a professional private supervision agency or a third party such as a family member or friend. The latter is less common, and the courts usually order a professional private supervision agency.
The most common types of supervisors are:
- Private supervisors who can travel: Independent professionals such as social workers or psychologists appointed by the parents or ordered by the Court who will travel to an agreed location to supervise the time.
- Private supervisors at a Supervision Centre: Independent professionals such as social workers or psychologists appointed by the parents or ordered by the Court who supervise time between a parent and a child at a secure and monitored supervision centre.
- Children Contact Centres: The supervision is to occur by a staff member from Children’s Contact Service in aid of preparation of a Child Impact Report, Specific Issues report, or Family Report.
Supervisor’s duties and obligations
The supervisor is responsible for monitoring parent-child interactions during supervised visits, ensuring adherence to court orders, and promptly reporting concerns or violations to the court. The supervisor must closely observe the interaction between the child and the parent/guardian, ensuring that the child is not exposed to inappropriate or harmful behaviour.
Supervisors will usually prepare a report after each supervised visit detailing the parents’ interaction with the child, the conversations and if they observed anything they believe was of a risk concern. These reports are often tendered as evidence in Family Court proceedings.
Review and modification
Supervised time orders can be reviewed and modified to suit the child’s evolving needs. Parents can apply to the Court to vary the orders supported by new evidence which demonstrates changes in their circumstances. The Court will make its decision considering the child’s best interest.
Often, the Court will order supervision for a certain period and then for supervised time to cease and unsupervised time to commence. The period of time of supervision is case by case depending on the level of risk.
Professional Sydney Supervisors
As of February 2024, the following are some professional supervision agencies our firm has had dealings with:
Legal costs associated with supervised time
It is important to note that there are costs associated with the supervised time arrangements. Supervision fees could include fees associated with the intake, subscription fees for supervised visits, and fees associated with producing a written report. Generally, the parents share equally in supervised visits. However, the Court may determine which parent pays the fees related to supervised visits considering the parent’s financial position. Some contact centres offer low-cost supervised time services for individuals with financial disadvantages.
On average, the cost is anywhere between $80 to $150 per hour, depending on the day of the week and the format of supervision. The intersection of family law, criminal law, and substance abuse is a complex and sensitive area. Supervised time or contact provides a safeguard for children who are victims of changes in their families’ dynamics and ensures the relationship with their parents is maintained. Parents and supervisors need to be attuned to the child’s emotional cues and needs during supervised visits, offering support and reassurance as necessary to promote a positive and enriching experience. Both lawyers and clients must navigate this terrain with care and empathy. Family law cases involving drugs and substance misuse require expert guidance to ensure the best outcome for all parties involved.
RAMSDEN FAMILY LAW – HOW WE CAN HELP
If you face such a situation, consult our experienced family law specialists at Ramsden Family Law. We are here to provide you with the necessary legal support and guidance to protect your family’s best interests during this challenging time. Empathy and understanding are crucial to helping clients through these difficult situations.
Our team of dedicated family law specialists brings extensive experience to the table. We understand the nuances of family law cases involving substance abuse, family violence and criminal elements. We offer comprehensive legal support tailored to your specific situation. Whether you’re dealing with parenting disputes, family violence issues, or custody battles, we have the expertise to guide you.
Every family law case is unique. We provide customised solutions and legal strategies tailored to your specific circumstances. Ramsden Family Law has a strong track record of successfully handling family law cases, including those involving substance abuse issues.
If you’re facing family law challenges related to substance abuse or criminal law, don’t hesitate to contact Ramsden Family Law. Your family’s future is our top priority, and we’re here to provide the guidance and support you need.
The content of this article is intended to provide general guidance to the subject matter and must not be relied on as legal advice. Specific advice about your circumstances should be sought.