Child protection court orders

If you have to go to court for a child protection matter — that is, if a social worker from the Ministry of Children and Family Development (the ministry) or a delegated Aboriginal agency is involved — the judge can make different orders for your child's care. Delegated Aboriginal agencies have agreements with the ministry to provide certain child protection services to Aboriginal communities.

Most of these orders are for child protection matters only. The court doesn't make these orders to address most parenting issues under the Family Law Act.
Get legal advice before you agree to an order. If you can't afford a lawyer, you might be able to get legal aid.

Interim orders

The judge can make four types of orders at a presentation hearing. The interim supervision orders have conditions (rules) of supervision and terms (length of time).

The ministry or delegated Aboriginal agency must notify your child's Aboriginal organization of the presentation hearing, if practical.

No supervision order — your child stays with you

If you show you can care for your child, and a protection hearing isn't needed, the judge returns your child to live with you without supervision. This ends the court process for you and your child. This could happen if you work out an agreement with the social worker, and/or if you make changes the social worker suggests before the hearing.

Interim supervision order — your child stays with you

Your child lives with you, and the ministry or delegated Aboriginal agency supervises the care you give your child. Your lawyer and the ministry or delegated Aboriginal agency lawyer usually negotiate this order, with agreement from you and the social worker. This order includes conditions you must follow.

Read the conditions of a supervision order carefully before you agree. While the supervision order lasts, you have to follow the agreed plan. The social worker checks with you regularly to make sure everything goes well and to make suggestions about your child's care.

Interim supervision order — your child stays with someone else

Your child lives with another person, like a relative or family friend, and the ministry or delegated Aboriginal agency supervises your child's care in that person's home. The order says how your child will be cared for and might say when and how you can visit your child.

Interim custody order — your child is placed in foster care

If the judge decides your child needed protection when removed and you might not be able to keep your child safe until the protection hearing, the judge orders to place your child in foster care until then. An interim custody order says:

  • where your child will stay (foster care)
  • whether you can visit your child
  • whether someone will supervise your visits
  • when the protection hearing begins
If you agree to an interim custody order, be sure to ask for access to visit your child.

Consent order

If you and the social worker agree on a plan of care for your child, the judge might make a consent order. A consent order means the judge doesn't have to decide your child needs protection. The court won't have in its record that your child needed protection.

If your child is 12 or older, they have the right to be part of the discussion about a consent order. If possible, get legal advice for your child.

If you agree to a consent order, you don't have to return to court unless your situation changes. In most cases, both parents have to agree before the judge can make a consent order.

Temporary orders

If the social worker believes your child needs more time in care, the judge makes a temporary order at the end of a protection hearing. Or you might need more support before you can care for your child safely at home. The temporary order says where your child lives for a certain time.

The ministry or delegated Aboriginal agency must notify your child's Aboriginal organization of the protection hearing.

Temporary supervision order — your child stays with you

Your child is returned to you, and the ministry or delegated Aboriginal agency supervises your parenting. A supervision order could have the condition you do certain things, like getting help with parenting problems you might have, attending counselling, or making sure your child attends daycare or school.

Temporary supervision order — your child stays with someone else

Your child lives with another person, like a relative or family friend, and the ministry or delegated Aboriginal agency supervises your child's care in that person's home. The order says how your child will be cared for and might say when and how you can visit your child.

Temporary custody order — your child is placed in foster care

Your child stays in foster care until the temporary custody order ends.

Length of time for orders

Supervision orders and custody orders are made for a specific time, called a fixed term. The length of the fixed term is based on your child's age at the time of the removal, or the youngest child's age if there's more than one child. If your child is:

  • under 5, the order can last for up to three months·
  • 5 to under 12, the order can last for up to six months
  • 12 or older, the order can last for up to 12 months

Once a temporary order is in place, the social worker can apply to extend it.

If the social worker believes you're unable or unwilling to solve the problems, they might apply for a continuing custody order when the temporary custody order ends.

Do everything you can to meet all the conditions of a temporary order. Show how your situation has changed and your child can be returned to you.

Continuing custody order — your child is placed in foster care permanently

The judge usually makes this order only if a very serious problem can't be fixed.

The ministry or delegated Aboriginal agency might ask for a continuing custody order instead of a temporary custody order if:

  • the social worker believes it's not in your child's best interests to be returned to you
  • you refuse to take your child back
  • the temporary custody order ended and the social worker believes you're unable or unwilling to fix the problem

A continuing custody order ends when:

  • your child turns 19, marries, or is adopted, or
  • a judge cancels the order or makes an order that transfers custody to another person.

If your situation changes after the judge makes a continuing custody order, you might be able to go back to court to have the order cancelled.

Even if a continuing custody order is made, other family or friends can still ask the guardianship social worker to transfer the child to their care.