Child protection in the Family Court

If you are involved in a parenting case in the Family Court to make decisions about raising your children after separation, the Family Court will want to make sure that your child is protected from any risk of harm, child abuse, neglect or family violence.

Protecting children from harm is one of the main things the court will consider when deciding what parenting arrangements will be in the best interests of the children.

This information will help you understand what the Family Court can do if there are allegations or concerns about child abuse or other risks of harming children. Find out:

  • what allegations and risks the Family Court will consider
  • what the court can do if your child is at risk, and
  • how you can make arrangements for your children if they are at risk of harm.

What sorts of harm does the Family Court consider?

Family law aims to protect children from physical, psychological and emotional harm caused by:

Children can be harmed as a direct victim of abuse, neglect or family violence, as well as being exposed to family violence or abuse against another person.

Abuse is not only physical violence. It can also involve serious psychological harm from a child experiencing or being exposed to family violence. Emotional abuse can include name-calling and putting a child down. Neglect can include not looking after a child's needs or providing a safe place for them to live.

You should get legal advice if an allegation of child abuse has been raised in the Family Court.

What does the Family Court do if there are allegations of child abuse or family violence?

The family law encourages children to develop or maintain a meaningful relationship with both parents, but also aims to protect children from physical, psychological and emotional harm. Keeping your children safe is given priority if there is ever a conflict between the two aims. This can affect what decisions the court makes about who has parental responsibility for the children, and how much time they spend with each parent.

If a parenting case involves an allegation of child abuse or family violence, the court must take action and consider making:

  • orders to gather evidence about the allegation of abuse or family violence, including asking the Department of Communities - Child Protection and Family Support to investigate further
  • orders to get documents or information from other government agencies, such as the police
  • temporary orders to protect the children or other family members as quickly as possible, and
  • an injunction to prevent certain things from happening.

The court may also appoint an Independent Children's Lawyer to represent the children's best interests in the case and appoint a Single Expert Witness to interview the parents and children.

How do we work out arrangements if there are allegations of abuse or family violence?

The most important thing to consider when making arrangements for children is always what is in their best interests.

If there has been family violence or child abuse, or you are worried about a risk of violence or abuse, then you should get legal advice about your family law options. Speaking to a lawyer can help you work out what arrangements for your children will be in their best interests.

If you are interested in Family Dispute Resolution, you can get advice about whether it will be suitable for your situation.


Reviewed: 5 April 2018


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.