Supervised contact

Contact with a child is how and when a child gets to spend time with a parent or another person who doesn't have day-to-day care of them. It used to be called "access".

Supervised contact is where contact with a child takes place in a safe, controlled place, with someone such as a relative, another person or an organisation. It usually happens when one parent has been violent, either towards the other parent or towards the child. Supervised contact can give a parent the chance to rebuild their relationship with their child. You can choose to use a supervised contact service, or the court might order it.

The court can make an Order about supervised contact:

  • if the judge has concerns about a child’s safety – for example, if someone has said the parent has been violent or the court has made a Protection Order against them
  • in some situations that don’t involve violence – for example, to reintroduce a parent to a child when they haven’t been in contact for a while.

The Order says who'll supervise the contact. It can be an approved organisation, or a person approved by the court, such as a relative or friend.

The court can review any supervised contact arrangements, especially if it makes a temporary Protection Order. When it does this review, both parties may have to go to court.

On this page:

Back to top

Information for the child’s caregiver

The parent or other person who has day-to-day care of the child should talk to the child about supervised contact in a way they’ll understand, using plain, simple words.

Tell them where the visits will be. If it’s not a place they know, describe it as a safe, friendly place where they can meet the other adult. If possible, visit the place with the child before the supervised contact starts.

Tell the child that the supervisors are kind adults who enjoy helping children.  Explain that they’ll be close during the visits and will make sure the visits are fun.

Tell the child who will be picking them up and that they’ll be coming back home.

Back to top

Information for the visiting adult

Contact sessions are more positive if the child chooses what happens during them. You can then follow their lead and join in and have fun.

Talk should be about play – not about adult issues. If the child asks a tricky question, try changing the subject or distracting them.

When it’s time to go, you may be feeling emotional, but take care not to upset your child. They need to know that you’re OK. This is a good time for a hug if the child wants one – and then a quick, happy, positive goodbye.

Back to top

More information about supervised contact

Supervisors

The supervisor of each contact session is someone like a relative or friend (if the Family Court agrees) or a professional organisation or person that the court has approved.

Professional supervisors have had lots of training. All supervisors – whether paid employees or family members or friends – will offer a safer service to the child if they:

  • understand children
  • stay neutral
  • know the risks involved in taking responsibility for supervising contact
  • know what to do if things go wrong
  • have an independent person to advise them.

What happens at a supervised contact session

All supervisors have clear rules to help keep everyone safe. Some rules may be about that visit only, such as the times each person arrives and leaves, what time the contact will take start and how long the session will last. There could also be general rules, such as no smoking or using cellphones during the session.

The child’s caregiver and the visiting adult may have to sign a contract setting out the rules.

Safety of child and caregivers

If parents or caregivers are concerned about the child’s safety during the visits, they should talk to the supervisor before the first visit.

The adults, including the supervisors, also need to feel safe. Some organisations:

  • make sure the caregiver and the visiting adult arrive and leave at different times
  • have more than one staff member at the contact session.

A visiting adult who keeps to agreed rules is also safe from having any false allegations made against them.

Feedback on what happens during the contact session

The person with day-to-day care can ask about the contact session, but they should remember that confidentiality may be an issue. If there are safety concerns for a child, this takes priority over confidentiality.

If the court has ordered and paid for supervised contact, the organisation doing the supervising will report to the court at the end of eight sessions or three months, whichever is earliest. These organisations don't normally give information to a lawyer representing a parent or another party.

How long supervised contact continues

Contact must continue to be supervised until the court decides otherwise. The person whose contact with the child is being supervised will need to apply to the court and ask for unsupervised contact. The court will have to be satisfied that the child will be safe.

In many cases, the relationship between the adult and the child improves quite quickly to the point where supervision isn't needed anymore. In some cases however, supervised contact may continue for a number of years.

Paying for supervised contact

When the court orders that an approved organisation must supervise contact, the government pays for the cost of the sessions unless the court orders otherwise. In other cases, the government doesn't pay the cost of the supervised contact.

Back to top

Find a supervised contact service

To find a supervised contact service, you can: