In Australia, parental issues are handled through a child support program designed to enable parents and courts to focus on the best interests of the child.
Research shows that children are actively involved in this process, which allows parents to better understand their children’s needs and make clearer decisions about future parenting arrangements. The program also motivates parents to work with each other and identifies children and parents in need of professional support, according to a study conducted one year after the launch of the Child Responsive Program. was helpful. The Australian Federal Circuit and Family Court (Family Law) Regulations 2021 govern the Children’s Advocacy Program.
What is the Child Responsive Program?
The Child Responsive Program aims to focus on the best interests of children involved in parenting controversies. It is designed to help parents and courts assess and understand the needs and desires of their children and determine the types of parenting arrangements that can best meet those needs.
The program also helps courts determine how the family law system can handle this particular parenting case, including whether additional resources are needed.
A court-appointed family counselor first meets with the parents and children involved in the dispute to determine the special needs and desires of the children.
In some cases, participating in this program can help you reach an agreement about future parenting. However, if the parties are still unable to agree on the best future arrangements for their children, the case will move to a less adversarial trial (see below).
When does the Child Responsive Program apply?
The Child Responsive Program is used for parentage litigation before the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCA).
The Clerk may invite a party to participate in the program if the party has not resolved the case by the end of the initial hearing.
An initial procedural hearing occurs early in the parenting case process, allowing the Registrar to assess the case and make an order as to how the case should be conducted.
For matters pending before the Federal Court of Justice, the parties may be invited to participate in a Children’s Comprehensive Conference or Child Disputes Conference. These are different from child support programs, which are conducted only in family court.
Who is the family consultant?
Under Section 11F of the Family Act 1975 (Cth), a court may order a party to attend the appointment of a family counselor under the Child Support Program.
A family counselor is a qualified social worker or psychologist appointed for their experience working with family and children’s issues. They are also recognized experts in educational matters and other children’s issues.
For more information about Family Counselors, please visit the Family Court website.
How does the Child Responsive Program work?
The Child Responsive Program consists of three main steps. Once a family counselor is assigned to a specific parenting case, the same counselor is involved throughout the process.
Information provided to family counselors is not confidential and all statements made by the parties may be admissible in court as evidence under Section 11C of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth).
First Step: intake and assessment intake meeting
In this first step, each parent meets individually with a family counselor. This is for discussing with children any issues they may encounter in their parenting arrangements. Family counselors also look for potential risk issues such as domestic violence and abuse.
Children did not attend this first evaluation.
Before the meeting, parents may need to watch the DVD presentation to understand how their children are experiencing separation from their families.
Second Step: child and family meeting
Children are included in a second interview if the family counselor feels that they are helpful in the assessment. For example, it may not make sense to see young children.
A family counselor will usually reunite with the parents before spending time with the children. Children are interviewed individually or collectively. Parents are not present when the family counselor visits the children (allowing the children to speak freely). These meetings provide an opportunity for children to talk about their experiences and feelings during separation and their hopes for future parenting. However, it is not possible to force or solicit opinions from children. This includes coercion by parents or family counselors (see Section 60CE Family Law Act 1975 (Cth)).
After these meetings, family counselors can provide feedback to parents about their child’s views and experiences. In some cases, this helps parents discuss future parenting arrangements, which can lead to an agreement between the parties.
Third step: The Children and Parents Issues Assessment
The family counselor writes an assessment of the child’s and parent’s problems after completing the interview with the family. This assessment summarizes the main issues related to parents and children identified at these meetings. Feedback from family counselors to parents and subsequent discussions are also recorded.
Parents (or their attorneys) will receive a copy of this evaluation. This may result in the parties reaching an agreement on future parentage. This may mean that the parties are not required to continue the process. If the parent disagrees with the evaluation, it can be challenged in court. Courts are not required to follow the family counselor’s advice included in the evaluation. This is because it is only a source of evidence for the court to consider.
Disputing child and parent issue assessments may occur on day one of the less controversial process (see below).
What happens after the program?
A hearing will occur as soon as possible after both parties have completed the child support program. This is required by Rule 12.09 of the Family Law Regulations 2004 (Cth).
The registrar will hold this hearing to determine how the parenting case will proceed. Orders that may be made at this hearing include:
- Refer the parties to family counseling or conflict resolution.
- Appointment of an independent child advocate;
- Each party must complete an educational questionnaire. When
- First day assignment before a judge in a non-adversarial process.
The parties will normally participate in this hearing via electronic communication.
What happens at the less adversarial trial?
Many parenting cases in family court use a non-adversarial process. Judges take an active role in deciding what evidence each party presents in court, and it is less formal than traditional trials. Judges can also call family counselors who have implemented child support programs to testify at the trial.
A family counselor’s testimony may include his or her assessment of the child’s needs and other issues affecting the parents. This evidence is based on the family counselor’s understanding of the family situation obtained through program meetings and helps determine the best interests of the children. The court will also determine whether family counselors need to provide additional help, such as increasing family reporting.
Review meetings after the trial
As a final step in the child support program, the court may require a retroactive review of any parenting orders that have been issued.
In this situation, the family counselor will meet with the parents and children after the hearing to ensure they understand what the parents’ ordinance means and how it works.
Courts may also order parents and/or children to use other services, such as: Consultation for Additional Assistance.
More information about attending the Child Responsive Program can be found on the Family Court website.
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