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Supervised Contact Centres in Tasmania overwhelmed

By November 24, 2015No Comments

Parents in Tasmania are waiting up to six weeks for appointments with supervised contact centres with the state’s services currently overwhelmed by demand in an escalating problem. The waiting lists in other States are even longer. Canberra for example typically has a wait of 4-6 months for parents wishing to access Marymead, the local supervised contact centre.
Families can be directed to supervised contact centres through either the Family Court or Family Dispute Resolution. These services provide supervised contact for parents who are deemed to be a risk to their children, or can be utilised as a neutral space for separated parents to hand over children in shared custody arrangements.
The current wait list in Tasmania is up to six weeks for a supervised visit, with a wait of two to four weeks for a weekday session in Hobart. In Launceston and Devonport, the waiting times are estimated to be between two and three weeks. The waiting lists are impacted by Family Court sitting schedules, new orders being made and the high levels of demand on weekends.
Such delays, whatever they are, exacerbate the pressures already experienced by some of the most vulnerable in our community, affecting children who are in high-risk situations, often experiencing family violence issues. The supervised contact service’s role is help keep kids safe so that whether there are family violence issues or not, children can have contact with both parents if it’s in their best interest. Bonding and attachment with both parents is regarded as essential for a child’s development and mental health, and ongoing family disputes can lead to behavioural problems in children–separation anxiety, general anxiety, acting out–so anything that causes extra delays can have noticeable repercussions.
Relationships Australia Tasmania operates the state’s three federally funded children’s contact services, all of which experience high usage all year. While the Federal Attorney-General’s department provided one-off additional funding for assistance with waiting times, it is hoped that funding will be ongoing to help address these problems.
If you are thinking about a supervised contact centre, consider these issues:
1. Notes are usually kept by case officers at the Centre, so these could be helpful or harmful if subpoenad as evidence in your case;
2. Most supervision orders are not indefinite, they may be an interim measure until trust is rebuilt or evidence shows there is no risk to children;
3. As the waiting lists are so long, the earlier you get onto a waiting list (either with consent orders early on, or after defended hearings) the better. Make inquiries as soon as possible so you can give that information to the other side and get onto a list.
4. Centres usually have behaviour codes, and their services can be terminated if staff are at risk, or are being abused by a parent. Remember these organisations are designed to help families, but not at the expense of the wellbeing of other clients, children and staff.
Do you need help with a parenting matter, such as supervised contact? Please contact Cristina Huesch here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400 to discuss your situation.


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