Stages in a child protection case at the Children's Court - Part 1 - early stages
What happens at the first hearing?
The first court hearing is a short hearing (sometimes called a mention). Everyone involved in the case will give the court an update about what has happened and plan with the court what should happen next. When Child Protection lodges a protection application with the court, the first hearing of your case should be within 3 working days.
At the first hearing the court may:
- If everyone involved in the case has been given notice, consider any urgent application for interim (temporary) orders.
- Make directions about the next steps to be taken, including who needs to complete each step and the deadline for completing it.
- Decide what type of court hearing is needed next and set a court date – the court may possibly set a date for an interim order hearing (the case should be given another court date within 6 weeks).
On this court date there is not usually much time to talk about the case.
Quick Answers Video: Child protection interim applications
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What it an interim order hearing?
Sometimes it can take a year or more before there is a final order hearing and the court makes a final decision about what should happen in the case. An interim order hearing is a short hearing where the court makes interim (temporary) orders before there is a final order hearing.
If an agreement cannot be reached, a parent or other person who is a party in the case or Child Protection can ask the court to make interim orders.
After listening to what everyone thinks is best for your child, the court will decide what, if any, interim orders to make.
Examples of common issues dealt with at an interim order hearing are:
- how often a child should spend time with their parents, and
- whether a child’s time with their parents needs to be supervised.
What happens if there isn't an interim order hearing?
Your case will be given a second hearing date (sometimes called a mention).
A magistrate may do one or more of the following things at a mention hearing:
- Ask for an update about the progress of the case.
- Check that Child Protection, parents and other parties in the case have done things the court has previously ordered them to do (for example, if the court ordered the child should spend time with the parents each week, check that the child is spending this time with their parents).
- Consider any interim applications made by Child Protection, the parents, or other parties in the case.
If your case is listed at Perth Children’s Court, the court may consider whether it is appropriate to refer the case to the Pilot Therapeutic List –‘’or the Case Management List.
The court may also consider sending your case to a child protection mediation conference or set a date for a status conference.
If your case is listed in a regional Children’s Court, a different process may be followed.
What is the Pilot Therapeutic List?
This is a special court list (named Dandjoo-Bidi-ak - 'Together on a path') for cases at Perth Children’s Court where:
- everyone involved in the case agrees to participate in a process that provides an opportunity for everyone to have their say when working out the best way to make things safe for the child, and
- there is a good chance of an agreement being reached.
The court will try to help you focus on ways to make things safe. There is more time allocated to talk about your case than in the general list.
What is the Case Management List?
This is a special court list for cases at Perth Children’s Court where a magistrate works closely on the case.
Only cases started by Child Protection can go to this list. Child Protection and at least one parent must agree to participate in the Case Management List. Your case can also only be referred if the parties are likely to benefit from the magistrate managing the case closely or the case is complicated.
What is a child protection mediation conference?
A child protection mediation conference is a meeting attended by Child Protection (usually the case worker and team leader) and other people involved in the case (usually parents) and their lawyers. Everyone involved will have the opportunity to talk about the issues in the case, care arrangements for the child and have a say about what they would like to happen in the case. Before the meeting, the Department, the parents, and the child representative, if one has been appointed, fill in a form called a conference outline that helps everyone know what each person thinks on key issues.
The meeting is organised by Legal Aid WA. It is run by an independent person who has special mediation training. This means they are not on the side of Child Protection or on the side of the parents of the child. They are there to help everyone have their say about the issues in the case and help them reach agreement.
If you are a parent, you would usually have a lawyer for the conference. You can also usually bring family, friends, and other support people.
At the meeting, Child Protection will talk about the good things parents and family have been doing to care for the child. Child Protection will also talk about any worries they may have about the child’s care and safety (for example, drug or alcohol use). The meeting is an opportunity for parents and family to plan with Child Protection to work towards making things safer for your child in the future.
To encourage everyone to speak up, everything talked about during the meeting is confidential. This means what is said during the meeting cannot be talked about in court, except in very limited circumstances.
What is a status conference?
A status conference is a hearing where the court will check if an agreement has been reached. For example, if there has been a recent mediation conference, the court will want to know if an agreement was reached at the conference. If an agreement has been reached, the court will usually make the agreed orders and the case will end.
If there is no agreement, the court may:
- make directions about what needs to happen next
- refer the case to the Case Management List, and/or
- set a date for a pre-hearing conference (a date should be set within 4 weeks).
After the status conference you should lodge your response with the court (if you have not already done so) and give everyone a copy within 7 days (unless the court orders something different).
Reviewed: 11 December 2023