What is Child Dispute Services?
Child Dispute Services come under purview of Family Court of Australia. These centres provide expert advice and assessments to the judges of the Family Court and Federal Court of Australia on family matters, child and parenting arrangements for the cases that are in the court for hearing.
There are 80 internal family consultants and several external consultants in every state, except WA.
Who are these Family consultants AND What do they DO?
Family Consultants are expert psychologists and /or social workers who have extensive knowledge and exposure to family and child issues affected by family separation.
- Mediate and help parties to resolve their disagreements.
- Provide expert advice to courts regarding family separation and its effects on the family.
- Recognize high priority issues with regards to families and children.
- Refer useful resources and service that might help separating families and children.
- Assess and ear mark impact of likely divorce on families and children.
- Prepare a comprehensive report on how families and children would function post-divorce.
Only those families whose divorce case is in court for hearing can avail the Child Dispute Services. And a Child Dispute Conference is arranged on orders by the courts.
Child Dispute Conference is conducted by Family Consultants. Both the separating spouses must be present in the meeting where the family consultant has one-on-one discussion with the parties. Children and the respective family lawyers are not included in the meeting. This meeting is basically a preliminary assessment on family situation and arrangements made so far and a report called Memorandum to Court is submitted to the judge to give a clear picture of family situation and child care arrangements which helps the judge understand the short term needs of the arrangements and make subsequent orders.
Although, the report is sent to the court, the judge is not bound by the report and can order different arrangements other than recommended ones in the report. A copy of this report is also sent to both the parties and is kept confidential.
Parties can work it out with their lawyers and reach arrangements as recommended in Memorandum to Court and apply for consent orders. If you don’t agree to the recommendations done in the report, you can bring it up in the court.
Matters that can be brought up in Child Dispute Conference:
- Current arrangements, if any. Otherwise the family consultant will try to mediate to make parenting arrangements for children.
- Current and future needs of children.
- The parties can also arrive at new arrangements with the help of a family consultant.
- Counselling the divorcing families
- Information regarding family laws
Any information shared in Child Dispute Conference is shared with judge in court hearing and is considered as an admissible proof of events. Since the court orders the parties to attend a Child dispute conference, it is compulsory to attend the session with the family consultant and the services are rendered free. You have to call National Enquiry Centre on 1300 352 000 to confirm your appointment.
If the partners haven’t entered any agreement concerning child care and support, the court orders for Child Inclusive Conference.
Child Inclusive Conference is a meeting of family consultant with both the parties along with the children. Lawyers are kept out of this meeting. Though the parties can bring along a person for support, in all the likelihood they aren’t interviewed unless the situation calls for one.
Sometimes the court may recommend Child Responsive Program.
Where the family consultants hold series of meetings with both the parties along with the children. In these meetings family matters and their effect on children and future arrangements are discussed at length and a report on ideal family arrangements are recommended to the court.
These meetings may look complicated to you. Since they are advised by the court, they are compulsory. Failing to attend the sessions will result in delayed hearing of your case and additional cost. Hence, make sure you contact a family lawyer to guide you through this.