Stages at court in a child protection case - Part 1 - early stages

There are a number of different stages in a child protection court case in the Children’s Court. At each stage it is important for the court to know what you think is best for your child and your views about the protection order Child Protection is asking the court to make. If an agreement cannot be reached about what order should be made for the child, the last stage of the court case is a final order hearing. After a final hearing the court will make a decision about what, if any, order should be made.

Find out about the early court stages here.

What happens at the first  hearing?

The first court hearing is a short hearing (sometimes called a mention) for the court to get an update from everyone involved in the case about what has happened and plan what should happen next.  

If Child Protection lodge a protection application with the court, the first hearing of your case should be within 3 working days. 

At the first hearing the court will:

  • Consider any urgent application for interim (temporary) orders that everyone involved in the case has been given notice of.
  • Make directions about the next steps that need 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 a lot of time to talk about the case.

What is 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.

Quick Answers Video: Child protection interim applications
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A parent or other person who is a party in the case or Child Protection can ask the court to make interim orders if an agreement cannot be reached.

After listening to what everyone thinks is best for your child, the court will decide what if any interim orders to make. 

Some examples of common issues dealt with at an interim order hearing include:

  • 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 next if there isn't an interim order hearing?

Your case will be given a second hearing date (sometimes called a mention).

Some common things the court may do at a mention  hearing include:

  • 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

A different process may be followed if your case is being heard in a regional Children’s Court.

What is the Pilot Therapeutic List?  

This is a special court list for cases at Perth Children’s Court where:

  • everyone involved in the case agrees to participate in a therapeutic process, and
  • there is a good chance of an agreement  being reached. 

The therapeutic process provides an opportunity for everyone to have their say when working out the best way to make things safe for the child. The court will try to help you focus on ways to make things safe.  

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 be referred to this list. Child Protection and at least one parent must agree to participate in the Case Management List. The 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. Parents and other people 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. The meeting is organised by Legal Aid WA and run by a person who has special mediation training. The person running the meeting is independent. 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 go to the child protection mediation conference with you. 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 make a plan with Child Protection to work towards making things safer for the child in the future.

Going to the conference with your lawyer gives you the best chance to be clear on what Child Protection is looking for from you to make it safe for your child, to say what you think is best for your child, to maybe narrow the issues that are in dispute or even come to an agreement about your case.

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.

Child protection mediation conference forms

What is a status conference?

A status conference is a hearing where the court will check if an agreement has been able to be 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 be finished.

If no agreement has been reached 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 need to 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 to this).

Reviewed: 9 September 2021

Disclaimer

The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.