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Child Protection Lawyers Adelaide

In the event you have had a child or children removed from your care, please urgently contact Ursula Matson, Barrister & Solicitor and Senior Associate at Scammell & Co, who has 18 years’ experience representing parents and legal guardians in this jurisdiction.

Having a child removed by the Department for Child Protection (Families SA) is possibly the most traumatic experience a person can have and Ms Matson appreciates this is the case and how much support you will need to cope with the legal proceedings that accompany such an event. The court proceedings at the Adelaide Youth Court get underway very quickly when a child is removed and you will need to seek representation urgently. It may also be the case that your child/children have been in care for some time and you wish to make an application to revoke a guardianship order to enable your child/children to be returned to your care. If so, we can assist with such an application.

Upon removal of a child, the Chief Executive of the Department for Child Protection will apply for investigation and assessment orders for a period of 3 months. At the conclusion of this period, the Chief Executive may then apply for guardianship of the child. We will endeavour to defend such applications and explore methods of resolving the applications, such as agreeing to the withdrawal of the application upon you signing a safety plan or entering into undertakings for 12 or so months. There are also other alternatives that we will explore with you as the matter unfolds.

IMPORTANT: Please note, we currently only have the capacity to defend applications for guardianship of children at the Adelaide Youth Court and we are happy to conduct it for legal aid grant if you are unable to pay us privately. We do not have capacity to conduct applications to revoke existing orders for guardianship of children and will not be taking on any more matters involving a change of placement of a child where we would ordinarily represent the carer or kinship carer appointed by DCP.

For urgent matters please call Ursula Matson on 0422 055 968

Our professional and experienced Child Protection Law team is ready to assist you…

Ursula Matson

FAQs Click on the questions below to reveal the answer.

What power does the Court have at the beginning of an application to remove a child?

The Court is unable to decide an application for guardianship orders or an application to revoke such orders until the matter proceeds to a trial. A trial of an application for guardianship orders must commence at least 10 weeks after the application is listed for hearing and from our experience the trial usually commences at the end of that 10-week period. However, in an application for investigation and assessment orders for a period of 3 months, the Court will not list the matter for trial and will make orders based on the documents filed in court. If the documents disclose the possibility of a risk to a child, the Court will grant the application. The court will adjourn such an application for only a short period for you to obtain legal advice and then the Court will decide this type of application after hearing any submissions by your lawyer.

Prior to the trial of an application for guardianship orders/final court date in investigation and assessment applications, the Court must make interim orders in terms of the application out of an abundance of caution and in case a child is at risk.

Will I still get to see my child if he or she is removed under an order of the Adelaide Youth Court?

If the Court makes an order granting either interim or final guardianship orders to the Chief Executive, it will be in the discretion of Families SA whether you are given access and if so, when, where and for how long. Further, it should be noted that any access is usually supervised by Families SA unless you have begun the process of reunification with your child/children.

What powers will Families SA have if investigation and assessment orders are made?

Families SA may investigate your criminal, mental health, drug and alcohol, child protection and possibly other histories and will possibly arrange medical/psychological and other assessments of you and your child/children. They will seek your authority to contact your medical practitioners, Counsellors and any organisations you are engaging in such as Drug and Alcohol Services SA. If you do not cooperate and provide them with the necessary authorities, Families SA is likely to seek an extension of time of the orders or simply pursue an application for care and protection of your child/children. As such, we always encourage our clients to allow the authorities to obtain this relevant information, otherwise Families SA is likely to obtain it through issuing a subpoena in due course and the court proceedings are likely to take longer and the chances of having your child/children returned will be reduced due to your lack of cooperation.

What are my chances of having my child/children returned if the Court grants an application for guardianship?

This will depend on what progress you are seen to have made throughout the duration of the order. We urge you to complete as many parenting courses and drug and alcohol programs as possible, not to mention undertake random urine and drug screen tests if you are accused of having drug and/or alcohol problems. Even if you consented to the guardianship orders on the basis you deny the allegations, you should still complete these courses and programs and seek them out yourself rather than waiting for Families SA to organise them. We also encourage you to seek psychological or psychiatric treatment throughout the order so that hopefully a positive diagnosis can be provided that encourages Families SA to commence the process of reunification during any 12-month orders. Should you be the subject of orders until the child/children attain 18 years of age, it will be up to you to bring an application to revoke the orders using this type of supporting evidence so that reunification can then occur.

Who are the parties in child protection proceedings?

The Chief Executive of the Department for Child Protection is the applicant, all parents of the child/children named in the application are the respondents and the child/children themselves are named as respondents to the application. A child is automatically represented by a Children’s Lawyer from the Legal Services Commission, who will speak to the child if he/she is old enough to express his/her concerns and wishes. Ultimately the Children’s Lawyer will do what they regard is in the best interests of the child despite any wish expressed by the child/children.