The Family Division of the Children's Court has jurisdiction in the State of Victoria to hear and determine applications for:
- interim accommodation orders
- a finding that a child is need of protection
- protection orders
- permanent care orders.
Interim Accommodation Orders
The first time a case comes before the Family Division of the Children's Court the magistrate will often, after hearing some preliminary detail, adjourn the case for a period and at the same time will make an interim accommodation order. The order covers the period of the adjournment and states where the child should live until the case comes back to court. The magistrate may decide that the child should live with a relative, in foster care, at home or somewhere else.
During the period of the adjournment, child protection staff from the Department of Health & Human Services will talk further with the child and parents about the issues involved and will prepare a report for the court about what they think should happen.
The court may make a protection order in respect of a child if it finds that:
- the child is in need of protection; or
- there is at the time a substantial and irreconcilable difference between the person who has parental responsibility for the child and the child to such an extent that the care and control of the child are likely to be seriously disrupted.
Types of Protection Orders
Upon finding that a child is in need of protection, the court may make any one of the following protection orders:
- an order requiring a person to give an undertaking to the court
An undertaking may require a child, parent/s or person with whom the child is living to do, or not do, certain things for a specified period. Once an undertaking is given the Department of Health & Human Services has no further involvement with the child or family.
- a family preservation order
A family preservation order gives the Department of Health & Human Services responsibility for the supervision of the child for a specified period but does not affect a person's parental responsibility for the child. This order provides for the child to be placed in the day to day care of one or both of the child's parents.
- a family reunification order
This order gives parental responsibility for the child to the Department of Health & Human Services but does not affect the parental responsibility of any other person for the child in making decisions about major long term issues (subject to the court deciding otherwise).
- a care by Secretary order
This order gives parental responsibility for a child to the Department of Health & Human Services to the exclusion of all others. This order is made for a period of 2 years.
- a long-term care order
This order gives parental responsibility for a child to the Department of Health & Human Services to the exclusion of all others. The order remains in force until the child turns 18 or marries.
A protection order may continue in force after the child turns 17 years of age but ceases to be in force when the child turns 18.
Permanent Care Orders
A permanent care order grants parental responsibility for a child to a person other than the child's parent or the Department of Health & Human Services. The order remains in force until the child's 18th birthday.
The court may make a permanent care order in respect of a child if the child's parent has not had care of the child for at least six months of the last 12 months, and it is satisfied that:
- the parent is unable or unwilling to resume parental responsibility for the child, or
- it would not be in the best interests of the child for the parent to resume parental responsibility, and that
- the person to assume parental responsibility for the child is a suitable person.
Depending on the circumstances, appeals from decisions in Family Division cases are heard by either the County Court or the Supreme Court.