As a parent going through a separation or divorce, your main concerns are of course your children's safety, health and happiness. These are also the central consideration of the Family Court.
It can be very distressing when you are concerned for your children’s welfare, especially if it is when they are with their other parent. If you are worried that your children’s safety, consider the options below.
Remember, having your child exposed to violence is a form of abuse.
Assess the risk
Firstly, assess the reality of the risk by thinking logically and realistically about the situation. Don’t overreact to concerns that may amount to difference in parenting styles.
When to contact the police
If the risk is real and serious in your view, immediately contact the police for urgent intervention.
If your concern is about the unknown, the police can visit the children wherever they are and carry out a ‘welfare check’ to ascertain whether they are safe and well, giving you much needed peace of mind.
If the situation is serious, then the police can always physically intervene.
When to contact the Department of Child Protection
If the risk that you assess is real but not as serious, then contact the Department of Child Protection (or relevant state department) for their monitoring of the situation and potential intervention.
Always make an Application to the Family Court of Western Australia
It may damage your credibility to express concern about your children but make no Application to the Court for orders protecting them.
Therefore, when concerned for your children’s wellbeing, always make an Application to the Family Court of Western Australia on an urgent basis for orders which will protect your child. These orders can include injunctions to prevent the children being removed and injunctions to prevent the other party having contact with the children unless supervised by a responsible adult. They can also seek to suspend contact or recover the children from the other party.
Whenever an urgent Application is made it is a good move to write to the Family Court explaining to them in a letter why you want an urgent listing and why the matter is so urgent that it needs to be brought on straight away.
The Family Court is user-friendly in emergency situations and will attend to the matter as quickly as possible, making urgent orders when required.
Remember that there are organisations that can support you when you are concerned about the welfare of your children. Keep your cool, operate from a place of logic and use the experts at your disposal to ensure that you are doing your very best to legally protect your children from any harm.
Be sure your claims are soundly based
False claims of violence are not unheard of and whilst the Family Court is very sensitive to the need to protect children from violence they are equally vigilant about parents who will go so far as to lie about violence by the other party to prevent the children having a relationship with the other parent. Not only is the result in Court likely to be disastrous but the lying parent can be ordered to pay both sides costs.