Family Law and the Notion of Supervision

by | May 20, 2019 | Family Law Fact Sheets

Whilst not a long term option, the issue of supervision is one that is considered by the Courts on a daily basis. The Family Law Act 1975 places a significant emphasis on the need to maintain the relationship between children and each of their parents whilst maintaining the paramount consideration of keeping a child safe from the risk of harm. Trying to maintain this balance can be difficult when considering whether a child is at risk in the care of one parent and as such, the concept of supervision is generally deemed the best option to ensure that a child is able to spend time with their parent and maintain and grow that relationship whilst ensuring that the alleged risks regarding care and environment are alleviated.

    • Supervision is often considered and ordered in various situations where a child may be at risk, including:
      Situations where a child may be at risk of physical or psychological harm whilst spending time with an alleged abusive parent;
    • Situations where a parent’s behaviour and conduct may not be in the best interest of the child such as if a parent suffered from a significant substance addiction.

It is important to remember the duties of a supervisor which is, most importantly, to ensure that children spend time with their parents in a safe environment where any risk of harm can be alleviated. In providing this service, a supervisor is required to monitor all interactions and conversations between children and their parents including remaining close at all times. In the event that a supervisor witnesses’ behaviour that could be deemed to be harmful, they are to terminate the time and return the child to the primary care parent.

So, with this in mind who can be a supervisor of a parent’s time? There are numerous agencies both private and Government funded which specialise in this area, however it is often the case that a mutual friend or family member can be the nominated supervisor. It is never recommended that the live with parent be the supervisor of the ‘spend time with’ parent in circumstances where this is likely to have the potential for significant conflict in the presence of a child.

With regards to friends and family acting as supervisors, this can often be the best option with regards to financial circumstances as well as ensuring that a child is comfortable and relaxed with the supervisor, however if the supervisor cannot be agreed or there has been conflict in the past, this may not result in the ideal environment. Often the best familial supervisor is a grandparent of the child as this allows the child to feel comfortable as well as ensuring that the child is safe. Supervising time requires a substantial commitment by the supervisor, and so it is essential that the potential supervisor is willing and able to commit to the supervision.

Another option which is somewhat cost effective is spending time through a Contact Centre. Contact Centres receive Government funding allowing the supervision services to be offered at a discount rate based on an asset means test. Prior to time commencing, both parties are required to attend an intake assessment as ascertain the suitability of the service for the parties. Contact Centres generally have play areas both indoors and outdoors as well as offering a range of games and toys for children and their parents to play with. These services also usually offer the ability for supervised changeover for parents embroiled in high conflict cases.

Given the high demand for these services, the waiting period can be quite lengthy with some Contact Centre having a wait time of more than 6 months for a weekend slot. It is usual practice that notes are taken during the supervised time which can be accessed at a later date through subpoena material if required.

Private supervision organisations provide similar services to that of a Contact Centre without the lengthy waiting time, however they generally involve quite a substantial cost. Private supervision has the benefit of time occurring in a more natural setting as well as having the ability for a high level of flexibility. These services are often utilised whilst a party is waiting for an opening at a Contact Centre. It is usual practice that the supervisor collects the child or children from the primary carer and transports them to and from the location where time will occur often being play centres, shopping centres or parks. Again, much like Contact Centres, the supervisor usually takes notes which can be relayed in a report usually attracting an additional fee.

At Rafton Family Lawyers we are able to guide you through the process further if you seek supervised time or supervised time is being sought against you.