By spending a short time completing this checklist each time you attend court, you ensure all the necessary tasks have been completed. This should save you time at court and minimise the need for adjournments.
Before attending court it is important that you have discussed the following aspects of the case with your supervisor or team manager:
- What is the risk assessment?
- How does the risk assessment link to the recommendation to provide protection and safety?
- What issues are negotiable, such as grounds of the application, length of a recommended order, conditions, bottom lines?
- If the matter is adjourned, will an IAO be sought? If so, what conditions will you be recommending, and what evidence do you have to demonstrate the need for them?
- Will you be seeking an undisclosed placement?
- Has the application (form) been lodged with the Children’s Court for a hearing date to be issued?
- Has a copy of the issued application form been served on all parties, whose whereabouts are known?
- other parent(s), including any not actively involved in the child’s life
- significant other/s
- young person 12+ years.
- Has service occurred within legal timelines (that is, at least 5 clear days?)
- Has a copy of the issued application form with court date been electronically sent to the CPLO or divisional legal officer?
- Has an ‘affidavit of service’ been sworn/affirmed?
- Has the original application form and original affidavit, plus the Court’s protection application information form (green form) been electronically sent to court prior to the hearing date?
- Have you filed and served an endorsed court report, and provided it to the parties, including allocated legal representatives?
- If you will be seeking an IAO at court, have all parties and their solicitors been notified of your intention? Note: If parties do not consent to an IAO, the IAO contest is unlikely to be heard on that day and will need to be booked for the first available date. This means you will have no IAO.
- Has a copy of the application been served on all parties, including those whose whereabouts are known? This includes parents who may not be actively involved in the child’s life.
- Have reasonable attempts been made to locate parents not actively involved in the child’s life or whose whereabouts are unknown? Is there evidence to demonstrate to the court the efforts made to locate and serve the parents?
- Have the Children’s Court and CPLO or regional legal officer been notified of the application? Note: These applications must be lodged by 1 pm (Secure Care application by 2pm) in Melbourne (regional areas check with your local court or regional legal officer). An application by emergency care before a Bail Justice is not required if the child will be brought before the children’s court within 24 hours of placing the child into emergency care. If the child cannot be brought before the Court within 24 hours, or if there are exceptional circumstances, then an application by emergency care before a Bail Justice will need to be arranged.
- Have you completed the protection application summary information form (also called a Form B), setting out the context and rationale for the application, and the evidence for the application?
- Have you completed the Court’s protection application information form (green form) and electronically sent it to the Court?
- If you will be seeking an IAO at court, have you decided on the conditions you will be seeking using the court proforma (pink form)? Are these also evidenced in the Form B?
- Will you be seeking an undisclosed placement?
- What recommendation is in the child’s best interests?
- Does the recommendation align with the permanency objective for the child?
- Does the recommendation align with the risk assessment to provide protection and safety to address all of the identified risks?
- What is the rationale for the recommendation, taking into consideration the best interests principles?
- What evidence do you have that supports your rationale?
- The recommendations or disposition reports must include, pursuant to s. 558, CYFA:
- the case plan
- recommendations concerning the order, including conditions where relevant
- if the report recommends other than parental care, steps taken to provide the services necessary to enable the child to remain in the care of a parent
- the department’s advice about the matters set out in s. 276A, where applicable and an explanation of what support and assistance has been provided by the department to the parents
- any other information the Court has directed or required by regulations (relating to r. 16 re suitable person IAO, or r. 18 re making a permanent care order).
Have you included the conditions of the order you are seeking in the report? See court proforma (pink form).
To whom and when was the court report distributed (reports must be completed and distributed seven days prior to the court hearing date, see s. 554, CYFA) and Practice Directions from the Children's Court.
- mother DATE: __/__/____
- mother’s solicitor DATE: __/__/____
- father DATE: __/__/____
- father’s solicitor DATE: __/__/____
- significant other/s DATE: __/__/____
- significant other/s solicitor DATE: __/__/____
- child/young person DATE: __/__/____
- child’s/young person’s solicitor DATE: __/__/____
- CPLO or divisional legal officer DATE: __/__/____
- Children’s Court DATE: __/__/____
- other parties DATE: __/__/____
- Have the protection application and recommendations reports been discussed with the child or young person and parents?
- Are the parties consenting to the application, recommendations and conditions?
- Which parties are attending court?
- significant other/s
- child/young person 10+ years
- other parties.
- Are the parties legally represented? If so, by whom? If they wish to be unrepresented, list as U/R.
- mother’s solicitor:
- father’s solicitor:
- significant other/s solicitor:
- child/young person’s solicitor:
- other/s solicitor:
- If parents do not want legal representation and are consenting to the proving of the application and/or the making of the order and/or the conditions of the order, have they each signed a letter of consent? Ensure the original letter is delivered to the court and a copy sent to the CPLO or regional legal officer.
- significant other/s.
- Has the child/young person aged 10+ years given instructions to a solicitor? Children are not required to attend court unless the child expresses a wish to do so, or the Court orders that the child attend or the CYFA requires that the child attend (s. 261A of the CYFA). All children should be given the opportunity to decide whether or not to attend the Court (unless the Court has otherwise ordered). Children aged 10 years and over should be advised that they must still provide instruction to a legal representative, even if they choose not to attend court.
- If you think you do not need to attend court, have you confirmed this with the CPLO or divisional legal officer?
Contact court or police to arrange security at court if there are worker safety issues.
Seek legal advice from CPLO or egional legal officer prior to the hearing date and throughout the court process.
Consult with your supervisor and ensure you have their endorsement for the application, the grounds, reasons for application and disposition and the conditions of the orders sought.
Consult with your supervisor to ensure that negotiated changes to conditions or orders during the course of a hearing occur with their endorsement.
The Court Practice Advice and Support (CPAS) team is a referral based service that provides court practice advice consultation. The service is available for referral prior to issuing an application in the Children’s Court in order to assist in preparing and planning for a possible Children’s Court application.
The service is also available for referral when there is a current application in the Children’s Court to assist in articulating risk and strengthening evidence. For more information about CPAS including how to make a referral, visit the CPAS SharePoint site.
Update court screen in CRIS.
Review the previous court activity document and minutes of previous hearing to ensure no procedural orders or actions have been missed.
Update the court activity case note document following each court event.
Prepare a chronology of relevant case events in point form. Include:
- Court dates and outcomes.
- Professional assessments (not opinion).
- Date and details of the protective intervention report (ensure that reporter details or any information that identifies the reporter are not included).
- List the protective concerns and the basis for these, for example:
- The protective concern is physical abuse of the child by the parent and the basis for this is the medical report or observation at contact.
- It is very important to be clear and specific about what the protective concerns are and the evidence you intend to use to prove them. Courts like to be provided with dates/ times/ observations etc.
- Significant interviews/contacts with the family.
- Incidents of abuse.
- Attempts at reunification, including dates and outcomes.
If not included in the court report, a list of all contact visits specifying:
- date of contact
- who was present
- place of contact
- summary of what occurred on that date, the worker’s observations, etc.
- A list of all reports specifying:
- the author of the report
- the date of the report
- the type of the report
- who the report concerns.
- A list of all meetings specifying:
- date of the meeting
- who attended the meeting
- if a parent did not attend the meeting:
- whether the parent was invited
- if so, how and when this notice was given
- how and when was the decision of the meeting communicated to the parent.
- Meeting information is important as it informs the Court as to the efforts made in ensuring the parent's involvement in the decision-making process and, likewise, it indicates the parent's interest or non-interest in this process. This information should also be easily accessible as you may be asked questions about it at court.
- A list of all witnesses and subpoenas.
- Rationales for all decisions and bottom lines. For example, decision to issue a protection application by emergency care as opposed to by notice, recommendations, conditions, expectations of the child or young person and their parents, etc.
- Review the essential information categories to ensure they are up to date.
- Tag the paper file for significant dates and information as this assists you to efficiently access file notes during cross-examination. It may assist you to colour code the file for dates and information and the protective concerns relevant to the case. This includes interviews, disclosures, incidents, access, medical reports, discussions with professionals etc. Note that whilst giving evidence you should exhaust your memory before referring to the file notes. Seek permission from the Magistrate to refer to the file notes during oral evidence.
- Compile all court reports and any other medical/psychological reports. Place departmental reports in chronological order and ensure that you have all other professional reports/assessments.
- Prepare a report for the contest hearing or a detailed update report. This should outline to the Court what has happened since the last court hearing. If other professionals have information relevant to the case, then it is recommended that a report be prepared by each of these professionals for the contest hearing.
- Ensure that all reports that will be relied upon have been provided to all the other legal parties involved in the contest hearing.
- Prepare and provide unmarked copies of all reports to the Judge or Magistrate via the court registry. Keep this material in a separate file so that it can be easily located when you are asked questions about specific matters at court.
- Keeping the essential information categories updated as new information and evidence is received will support you in keeping track of information, make it easy to locate and transfer into Court reports and information for the Court.
Ensure all witness summons have been served (including the provision of conduct money) and affidavits of service have been completed and filed at court.
- Understand the court processes in relation to evidence in chief/cross examination/re-examination. Witnesses cannot hear evidence of other witnesses before them (department workers are usually excluded from this as they need to be there to give instructions to the barrister).
- If you speak to the family during the breaks, do not enter into discussions about the contested issues.
- Request a case conference with your manager/supervisor, your legal representative from CPLO/regional solicitor and your briefed counsel or barrister. Use this time to consider the evidence, the merits of the case, and legal strategy. Reflect on the departments position and consider if it remains relevant, current, and in line with the evidence you hold.
- During the preparation period your barrister has an obligation to indicate the likelihood of success and point out weaknesses, which may be areas to concede or negotiate settlement.
- Role-play giving evidence with your supervisor or legal representative during your preparation consultation prior to the hearing.
- Be aware of the different types of questioning used by barristers in cross-examination.
When giving evidence:
- Once you have been sworn in the witness box, your barrister cannot discuss your evidence with you, including during the breaks.
- Be very familiar with the file and the risk assessment (including all reports).
- Exhaust your memory before referring to the file notes during oral evidence. If you want to refer to the file notes, you must seek permission from the Magistrate.
- Acknowledge absence of information where relevant and respond in a transparent way in relation to questions or cross examination related to what may be considered weaknesses in the case or evidence, and .
- Be prepared to be cross-examined about these issues. You may want to make a list of possible questions and prepare responses.
- Be clear about your risk assessment and the difference between fact, professional assessment and opinion.
Being a witness:
- Try to remain calm. Do not feel under pressure to respond quickly; listen, pause and think first.
- Keep answers short and clear.
- Avoid reacting to attacks on you personally or on your professionalism and avoid becoming defensive.
- When being cross-examined, address your replies to the bench (Magistrate).
- Remember that cross-examination is designed to challenge evidence in chief, elicit new facts in favour of the opposing case, gain concessions from the witness and undermine the witness’s credibility.
- Do not try to answer questions that you do not know the answer to, answer only the question put to you and avoid professional jargon.
- If you make an error or omission in your evidence, acknowledge it to the court, do not gloss over it, and answer honestly and clearly.
- Be prepared to concede a point if an alternative view is possible but improbable.
- If you refer to research in your report/evidence, be able to explain why it is relevant to the case.
- If you cannot remember the question or are confused about what is actually being asked, ask for the question to be repeated or clarified. If there are multiple questions asked in one, ask the person asking it to break it down into individual questions.