Children's Court New South Wales

Care and protection: children and young people

Information about your court case

Home is not always a safe place for children to live. When it becomes unsafe or you are not being cared for properly, you might have to live somewhere else, at least for a while. If this happens, the government department (the Department) that protects children has to apply to the Children’s Court for orders.

Judicial officers at the Children’s Court are here to decide what action needs to be taken to make sure that someone is taking care of you and protecting you.  They have to decide what is in your best interests.

What are my rights?

As a child or young person, you have a right to be safe and receive care that helps you to grow and to live a happy and healthy life.

It is important that the judicial officer hearing your case knows what you want.  You have a right to tell the Children’s Court where you want to live and who in your family you want to have contact with.  However, there are different ways this can happen.

A lawyer will always be appointed to represent you and it is important to talk to your lawyer about the case and how the court process works. The lawyer will speak for you at court.  You might want to come to court but you don’t have to if you don’t want to.  

What happens on the first court date?

All children get a lawyer to represent them. This is organised on the first court date. This lawyer is separate from the Department’s lawyer and your parents’ or carers’ lawyer.  If you have brothers and sisters, you might have the same lawyer or a different lawyer depending on your age and their age.

The main decision to be made on the first court date is who will have the temporary powers to make decisions about you. This might include where you will live and who will look after you until the court case finishes. This is called 'interim (short term) parental responsibility'.

Will I see my family again?

Yes, as long as it is safe for you to do so.  Keeping a relationship with your family is very important.  Depending on the situation, arrangements can be made for you to have contact with your parents, grandparents and brothers and sisters if they can’t live with you.

If you are not seeing your family or would like more contact with your family, you should speak with your case workers and lawyer about this. If you would like contact with a specific member of your family, then you should let your case worker and lawyer know. 

How long will the case take to finish?

It is hard to say how long each case will take as every case is different. Your matter will have at least 2 or 3 court dates which allows the child protection workers (known as case workers) to work with your family, prepare reports and gather more information to help the judicial officer make decisions that are best for you. It also allows parents or carers time to get a lawyer and provide material which tells the court their side of the story and what they would like to happen for you.

Most cases are finished within 12 months. Sometimes there may be a lot of court dates, you may even attend a conference or be involved in the preparation of a report.  Your lawyer will talk to you more about the process and different stages of court.

If contact with your family or other important people in your life is not being organised, your lawyer can tell the Court or if you come to court, you can tell the Court about this.

Children under 12 years of age 

A lawyer, known as an Independent Legal Representative (ILR) is appointed by the Court on the first court date. The ILR will usually represent you and if you have any brothers or sisters that are under 12 years of age.

Your lawyer’s role is to assist the Court and make recommendations as to what they believe is best for you. Their focus is on you, your safety and making sure all your needs are being met.

Your lawyer will attend each court event, read all the material filed with the Court and may get independent information about you and your family.  This might include getting information from your school and doctors.

Your lawyer might request an appointment with you. This is a great opportunity for you to speak with your lawyer and tell them a little bit about you, your wishes and how things are going now. Your lawyer will also explain the court process to you a bit more and should be able to answer any questions you have.

You can find out more information about the court process and your lawyer by watching the Best for Kids videos.

Children 12 years of age and older

You have a legal right to directly participate in the Court proceedings.

A lawyer, known as a Direct Legal Representative (DLR) is appointed for each child that is 12 years or older. This is because the law assumes that children over 12 years of age are capable of giving proper instructions to a lawyer.

If your lawyer assesses that you are not capable of giving proper instructions or they are unable to obtain instructions from you, they may make an application to the Children’s Court to change their role to that of an Independent Legal Representative. If this happens, the lawyer will act on what they believe are your best interests. 

Your lawyer must arrange an appointment with you so they can tell you about what is happening at Court and get instructions from you about what you want to happen.  They can also give you copies of the court documents if you want.

Speaking with your lawyer is important as they will tell the court what your views and wishes are.  The appointment can be in person or by telephone and usually involves the lawyer and you only. The person that is caring for you or the case workers can help in arranging appointments between you and your lawyer.

Your lawyer will attend each court date and you can come to court with them if you want. Another way of being involved without attending court is filing a document called a “views and wishes statement”. This document tells the judicial officer and all parties involved in your case, what you have to say about the case and what you want to happen.  Your lawyer can prepare this document for you.

If your case involves a Guardianship application, there are a few different steps in this process. The court can only make the order if you consent (agree) to it. Your lawyer will tell you more about this type of application and the process when you have an appointment with them.

If you would like more information about the role of your lawyer and their obligations to you and the Court, there are Guidelines - Representation Principles for Children’s Lawyers that may help.

You can find out more information about the court process and your lawyer by watching the Best for Kids videos.

Last updated:

08 May 2023

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