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Child Welfare Laws and the Family Law Act

Section 69ZK of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (“the Act”) expressly states that a Court must not make an order under the Act in relation to a child who is under the care (however described) of a person under a child welfare law, unless:

(a) The order is expressed to come into effect when the child ceases to be under that care; or

(b) The order is made in proceedings related to the child in respect of the institution or continuation of which the written consent of a child welfare officer has been obtained.

In Queensland, the Child Protection Act 1999 (QLD) prescribes that the Department will intervene when they reasonable suspect that a child is in need of protection and the child needs ongoing help (or an investigation).

Under section 91B of the Act, the Court can request the Department intervene in parenting proceedings, likewise the Department is capable of intervening without the Court’s explicit orders. Under section 69ZW of the Act, the Court is also capable of making an order for the Department to provide documents pertaining to the Department’s Investigation of the child.

The Department’s intervention in a family does not automatically stop parenting proceedings from continuing; although parenting proceedings will often be adjourned for a time to allow the parties (including the Department if they have opted to intervene) to determine the severity and longevity of the Department’s involvement with the child.

Once the extent of the Department’s involvement has been established, it may be that it is entirely appropriate to make parenting orders with the consent of the Department or which are suspended until the Department is no longer involved. In more serious matters, it is also possible that the parenting proceedings are stayed or dismissed entirely until the Department has reached a decision regarding the child.

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