saraSometimes when parties separate and they have children, one or both of the parents may be required to spend supervised time with their children. This may be for a variety of reasons, primarily it is to ensure that children are not exposed to any form of risk.

When a Court has made final orders, it is almost impossible to change them unless there has been a significant change in circumstances as outlined in the leading case of Rice and Asplund (1979) FLC 90-725.

The question may be asked, what happens when a Court has made final orders for one of the parents to only spend supervised time with the children? Can the issues leading to the supervision be re-addressed and changed at a later time?

This issue was the subject of debate in the matter of Slater & Light [2013] FamCAFC 4. This was an appeal from the Federal Magistrates Court concerning a decision whereby a father was to spend supervised time with his children. It was determined at that time that the father posed an unacceptable risk of emotional harm to the children.

The problem for the father was that the orders provided that he could only have supervised visits with the children. There were no other orders for the father, whether he was rehabilitated or not.  He was not to spend unsupervised time with the children.

On appeal, the Family Court had to determine whether the Federal Magistrate, had the intention that the orders were to be final with no prospects of changing them.

Whilst the Court found that the order for supervised time was justified in the circumstances, they did not agree that an indefinite supervision order was the correct outcome.  The reason is that it did not allow the father the opportunity to apply to vary the orders due to the matters outlined in Rice and Asplund. 

Further, the Court did concede that there had been a time delay between the initial hearing in 2011 and the time of the appeal. In that regard, they ordered a re-hearing of the matter with updated expert evidence about the time that the father should spend with the children.

If you need advice in relation to parenting orders, you should contact Everingham Solomons because we have the experience and expertise to assist you because Helping You is Our Business.

Click here for more information on Sara Burnheim.