2. Exchange of information

Information exchange between the department and family courts only occurs where legislation permits the disclosure of information. For further information, refer to the practice resource Working with family courts (PDF, 36 KB) and the Protocol between the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia and the Department of Child Safety Queensland (ASHX, 5 KB).

Before exchanging relevant information, consider the following matters:

  • the safety, well-being and best interests of the child are the paramount consideration
  • any statutory requirements of privacy and security of personal information
  • the well-being and protection of children at risk is generally better secured through the exchange of information between those concerned with the child and the family
  • courts are in a better position to make appropriate orders if they are fully aware of proceedings in other jurisdictions.

Ensure that the information to be exchanged is limited to only that which:

  • is relevant to the respective roles of each party
  • is relevant to the specific purpose for which it is disclosed
  • safeguards the child’s safety and promotes their best interests.

2.1 Family consultants

Family consultants (social workers or psychologists) may be assigned to a family court case, to:

  • help parties to resolve a dispute
  • assist and advise the court and give evidence about a case
  • write and provide a report to the court about the family
  • advise the court about the services provided to families by government, community and other agencies.

For further information, refer to the Family consultants Fact sheet.

Contact by a family consultant

Should a family consultant contact the CSSC or a RIS directly to request information about a child or family, refer the family consultant to Court Services in the first instance. Court Services will advise the CSSC or RIS as to how to progress the family consultant's request.

2.2 Independent Children's Lawyers

An order for an Independent Children's Lawyer (ICL) may be made during family court proceedings. The ICL is appointed to represent and promote the best interests of a child in family court proceedings, by enabling the child to be involved in decision-making about the proceedings. The degree of the child's involvement is decided by the ICL, based on the extent to which the child wishes to be involved and the extent that is appropriate for the child having regard to the child's age, developmental level, cognitive abilities, emotional state and views.

Where a family court is aware that the department has had some involvement with the child and their family, the court will usually make an order under the Family Law Act 1975, section 91B, at the same time as an order appointing an ICL - refer to 4. Respond to an order requesting intervention by the department - section 91B orders.

For further information, refer to the 'Protocol between the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia and the Department of Child Safety Queensland' and the Guidelines for Independent Children's Lawyers (PDF).

Contact by an Independent Children's Lawyer

When an ICL is appointed by a family court, the ICL will contact the department to seek information about:

  • the extent of any child protection involvement with the child or family, in particular, any abuse or neglect notifications and investigations
  • if there has been any such involvement, whether the department intends to become involved in the family court proceedings or is considering the initiation of other legal proceedings.

It is appropriate for the ICL and CSSC or RIS to liaise with each other in respect of any involvement the department may have had, or has, with the child and family, however, it is necessary for the ICL to confirm their appointment prior to being provided with any information.

The ICL will demonstrate their appointment by providing a Notice of Address for Service form, a prescribed family court form. This requirement applies regardless of whether a family court case is designated as a Magellan matter - refer to 4.2 Magellan matter, including a section 91B order.

The production of any departmental file material by the ICL will necessitate the requirement of a subpoena to release the documents to the family court.

The release of otherwise verbal information to the ICL may be undertaken in accordance with the confidentiality provisions contained within the Child Protection Act 1999, section 187(3).

2.3 Magellan case management model

The Magellan case management model was developed to deal with family court cases involving serious allegations of physical and sexual child abuse, and involves:

  • rigorous judicial management including the imposition of strict timeframes
  • an early 'front loading' of resources such as the appointment of an ICL
  • requesting information from the department early in the court process
  • close liaison on case management between external information providers and a small team of judges, registrars and family consultants.

Only the Family Court of Australia has jurisdiction to deal with Magellan matters. Where a case is designated as a Magellan matter, an ICL may be appointed by the court and there is a requirement for the department to respond - refer to 4.2 Magellan matter, including a section 91B order.

Generally, the aim is to complete Magellan cases within six months from the case being placed on the Magellan list by the court.

2.4 Court Services

A departmental officer who is advised of, or provided with a copy of, a family law application should immediately inform Court Services. This enables Court Services to provide Crown Law with sufficient notice if required to attend court, and provides the CSSC or RIS with sufficient notice if they are required to prepare any written material in response to an application.