Children’s Court

This division determines child protection matters, including care and protection orders and assessment orders.

This information is for parents/guardians of children involved in child protection matters.

You may come to court if:

  • your children are at risk of physical or psychological harm
  • you can’t agree with Child Protection Services about what’s in your children’s best interests

Going to court does not mean that you, your partner/ex-partner or your child is in trouble.

Staff from Child Safety Services becomes involved if they’re worried about the safety or care of your children.

They can help you and your family make changes so your children are safe, healthy and have what they need to grow up in a safe environment.

They can also go to court to ask a Magistrate to make an order (these are explained below).

Sometimes Child Safety Services may ask for help from the police.

Child Safety Services is part of the Department of Communities Tasmania. Find out more about its work, including the full Child Safety Process, at Child Safety Services website.

If Child Protection Services seeks an order, they will:

  • submit an application form to the court
  • submit an affidavit to the court
  • give you copies of these

You can respond to the affidavit by making your own. You should seek legal advice on the correct way to write and submit your affidavit (if possible, before you go to court).

Child protection orders are made by the court when a child needs to be protected from physical or psychological harm or properly cared for. There are:

  • assessment orders
  • care and protection orders
  • orders that extend or vary care and protection orders

Care and protection orders can be up to 12 months, or even until a child turns 18.

Orders may include conditions to be observed by people such as:

  • the child
  • the guardian of the child
  • a person who is to supervise the child
  • a person who is granted custody of the child

If you don’t go to court when you need to, the magistrate can make an order without you.

You can find more detail about these orders in the Tasmanian Law Handbook.

No, children do not usually go to court.

Children’s views may be made known to the Court:a

  • in a report, or
  • through a lawyer representing the child. They will act on what they think the evidence shows is in the best interests of the child.

Children’s Division courts are generally closed courts. The media and all members of the public are generally excluded from the courtroom. There will usually be:

  • the Magistrate and court staff (including security guards)
  • you, your partner/ex-partner, or other family members
  • Child Protection Services workers
  • experts like a doctor or psychologist
  • lawyers

Do you need legal advice?

You might need legal advice if:

  • your children are at risk of physical or psychological harm
  • you can’t agree with Child Protection Services about what’s in your children’s best interests
  • you’re going to Court because Child Protection Services is seeking an order
  • you’re thinking about signing a care agreement proposed by Child Protection Services

Getting legal advice can help you understand the choices you have and what is happening. It’s a good idea to get legal advice before you go to court.

To find out where to get legal advice from, refer to our Support Services section.

If your child is placed ‘in care’, they will live away from you:

  • with another family: either a foster carer or a relative
  • in a family group home
  • or in a therapeutic care environment

A Child Protection Worker will write a ‘case and care plan’ for how your child will be supported while they’re in care. This plan may cover their education, health and recreation; and their access to you, their brothers/sisters and other family

The Child Protection Worker will talk to you, your child, their carer and others about what should be in this plan. You can ask to be involved in developing this plan. You can also ask what to do to work towards the arrangements you want.

If your child doesn’t have a ‘case and care plan’ (or you’re not sure), ask the Child Protection Worker or get legal advice.

Sometimes children are in care for a short time, and sometimes they’re in care for a longer time.

It depends on:

  • what kind of order is in place
  • what needs to happen to make it safe for your child to go home

Sometimes that means you, your partner or other people in your life need to change your lifestyle or behaviour.

If your child is in care and you:

  • want to know why they can’t live with you: talk to the Child Protection Worker or get legal advice
  • have concerns about your child’s welfare: talk to the Child Protection Worker. If you’re not happy with what they tell you, get legal advice
  • think your child may be in danger: call the police and get legal advice. The police will decide if they take action

Yes, there are booklets available for children and young people that explain:

  • who is involved in the child protection process
  • who they can talk to about concerns
  • how to have a say in what happens
  • court processes and court orders

You can find these booklets at the Commissioner for Children’s website.

Child protections laws include:

  • Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1997
  • Magistrates Court (Children’s Division) Act 1998.

These focus on the best interests of children, and aim to make sure children are kept safe from physical or psychological harm, and are properly cared for. These acts believe:

  • the primary responsibility for a child’s care and protection lies with the child’s family
  • a high priority is given to supporting and helping the family carry out that primary responsibility, in preference to starting legal proceedings
  • if the family is not able to meet its responsibilities to the child and the child is at risk, then the Secretary (of the Dept of Health and Human Services) may accept those responsibilities