Published: 01 September, 2021

How the new Court Children's Service will help families

The launch of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (the Court) will see Child Dispute Services take on the title of Court Children’s Service (CCS). This new title is representative of some significant changes that are being introduced to the work done by the Court’s social workers and psychologists.

In addition to undertaking their duties under their appointment as a family consultant, the role of CCS staff will broaden, by performing expanded duties under their authorisation as a family counsellor. These family counsellor duties will include assisting registrars with the delivery of confidential dispute resolution events and conducting confidential risk assessment interviews in the context of the Court’s Lighthouse Project. To reflect this expansion of responsibilities, their position title has changed to court child expert.

The CCS will also continue to use the services of social workers and psychologists appointed to the role of family consultant under The Regulations. These practitioners will remain known as Regulation 7 Family Consultants, as they will not be conducting any family counsellor duties, and will continue to provide family reports for CCS.

The overarching purpose of the CCS will be to assist families and the Court by:

  • helping parents understand the needs of their children after separation
  • identifying risk factors that impact children
  • identifying family strengths and protective factors
  • providing expert evidence through the provision of assessment reports
  • providing information about resources and support services, and
  • assisting in the resolution of disputes.

In addition to supporting the introduction of dispute resolution into the case management pathway, court children’s experts will deliver a new type of early assessment event; a Child Impact Report. The purpose of this report will be to:

  • focus the parties on the impact the dispute is having on the child/ren
  • give a voice to the child at the early stage of proceedings
  • inform the dispute resolution event
  • provide evidence for an interim hearing where necessary, and
  • assist the Court in identifying what evidence may be required for trial.

Key to the value of this new event will be the court children’s experts access to critical case information through recent initiatives such as the Court’s Notice of Child Abuse, Family Violence and Risk and the co-location of police and child protection services

The CCS will also provide assessments for the purpose of being evidence for trial, including family reports, specific issues reports and child impact addendum reports. It is anticipated that, with the introduction of the child impact report and dispute resolution into the case pathway, and the more timely progression of matters through the pathway, the orders for these CCS trial events will be more targeted and see CCS resources being used in a more effective and efficient way.

The staff of the CCS are deeply committed to the safety and wellbeing of children and are excited by the expanded role they will play in the Court.