What is a Parenting Order?
A parenting order is an order made by the Family Court that says who is responsible for the day-to-day care of a child, and when and how someone else important in the child's life can have contact with them. Parenting orders can be enforced just like any other order of the Court. Usually, they involve disputes between a child's parents. But other people in a child's life can apply for a parenting order too - a guardian, or a partner of a parent of the child, for example, and in some instances others. A parenting order can also be made when parents or guardians agree on the arrangements for the care of children and have prepared a written parenting agreement. Here, one or both can ask the Court to make a parenting order based on the agreement. Day-to-day care used to be called custody, and contact used to be called access. A Parenting order is the new name for what used to be called custody orders and access orders.
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What is supervised contact?
Contact with a child is how and when a child gets to spend time with a parent or other person who does not have day-to-day care of them. It used to be called supervised access.
Supervised contact takes place in a safe, controlled situation, overseen by someone such as a relative or an organisation that provides supervised contact services. It is most often used when one parent has been violent, either towards the other parent or towards the children.
Supervised contact has given many parents the chance to rebuild solid relationships with their children.
If a Family Court is dealing with a dispute about arrangements for the care of a child and one of the parties claims that the other has been violent, the Court will hear the evidence and decide whether the claim is true. If it decides it is true, the Court can order that the person who has been violent will have supervised contact with the child, unless it is satisfied that the child would be safe with unsupervised contact.
When the Judge is making a decision, he/she must take the child's wishes into account and may appoint a lawyer for the child. The Court may also require contact to be supervised until it can hear and decide on a claim of violence. The Court may also order supervised contact in situations that don't involve violence (for example, to re-introduce a parent to a child after a period of no contact between them).