Going to court for a child protection case

Going to court for a child protection case

If you are a child or young person aged 10 or more going to the Children’s Court, and you are mature enough, a lawyer will be arranged to help you.

If you are a parent or carer you don’t have to be represented by a lawyer. However, preparing and presenting your own case can be complicated, especially if the court is being asked to remove your child from your care. You can get help.

Parents and children (who are mature enough) have separate lawyers.

A lawyer can give you advice about your choices, and speak for you. What you tell your lawyer is confidential.

Before the hearing date

Before the hearing date, contact the court to see what time you need to be there. It's best to get there about half an hour before the first court hearing. Usually the first court hearing starts at 10 am.

If you need an interpreter contact the Children’s Court you are attending to let them know before your court date.

The court will pay for the interpreter. Only qualified interpreters can work at court.

At court

When you get to court, go to the counter and tell the court registrar you have arrived. The registrar sorts out the order of the hearings on the day. Your case may not be heard straight away. Plan to be there for the whole day.

Do not go too far away. You need to be able to hear your name being called when the magistrate is ready for you.

Going into the courtroom

At court, when your name is called, go into the courtroom. Stand behind the table at the front of the court, facing the magistrate.

The magistrate will wait until everyone has entered, and will then ask what stage your case is up to.

The Department of Health and Human Service’s lawyer will briefly explain what the department is asking for and tell the magistrate if the case can go ahead.

The magistrate may give everyone more time to talk, or may set aside time to listen to each side before making a decision.

If you have a lawyer, your lawyer will speak for you.

Sometimes you may go into and out of court several times on one day. You may have to come back on another day, as courts often do not make a final decision on the first day you go to court.

Magistrate’s decision

The magistrate can make different court orders, depending on the case and what stage it is at.

If the case is not decided

If the case has only just started, or there is no agreement about what should happen, the magistrate may:

  • make a temporary order requiring you and your family to cooperate with the investigation, called a temporary assessment order
  • put the case off, for another hearing date
  • make a temporary order about the care of the child, called an interim accommodation order
  • make an order for dispute resolution, called a conciliation conference.

If the court decides to make a final order

If the magistrate decides that there is enough information to make a final decision, they may:

  • dismiss the case
  • make final orders about the protection of children, including:
    • an undertaking
    • a family preservation order
    • a family reunification order
    • a care by secretary order
    • a long term care by secretary order
    • a permanent care order.

For more information about the types of orders see the Children’s Court website.

Disagree with the decision

Interim accommodation order

If you are unhappy with the magistrate’s decision about the temporary care of your child on an interim accommodation order, the following options are available to you.

If the magistrate’s decision was made on the first day of court then you may:

  • ask that the case be heard again at the Children’s Court, this time, with evidence from the parties
  • appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

If the magistrate’s decision was made following an application to breach an existing interim accommodation order then you may:

  • ask that the case be heard again at the Children’s Court, this time, with evidence from the parties
  • appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

If the magistrate’s decision was made following a contested hearing where the magistrate heard evidence from various witnesses, then you may appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

You must appeal within reasonable time. Before appealing any decision of the Children’s Court get legal advice first.

Protection application proved and final order

If you are unhappy with the magistrate’s decision that the child is in need of protection, or if you disagree with the conditions of the order, you can appeal to either the County Court or the Supreme Court.

You must appeal within 30 days of the decision. Get legal advice first.

Get help

Find out how you can get help with our child protection matter.