Family Reports: What You Need To Know

by Resolve Conflict on October 9, 2019

Family Reports What You Need To Know - Resolve Conflict Family LawyersIf you are involved in a parenting dispute and the matter is being heard by the Family Law Courts, chances are you will need to participate in a Court ordered Family Report process.

Under the Family Law Act the Courts have the power to commission experts (Family Consultants) to independently assess and report on the issues surrounding your parental dispute, this then is used to assist the Court in making a decision about your child/ren’s best interests in resolving the matter.

What Is A Family Report?

A family report will often be ordered if the Court believes it will help with the process of determining a child’s best interests.

Written by a family consultant appointed by the Court, the Family Report provides an independent assessment of the issues in the case and can help the judge hearing the case to make decisions about arrangements for the child/ren. It may also help the parties reach an agreement.

In preparing the report, the family consultant considers:

  • The family’s circumstances;
  • Explores issues relevant to the case;
  • Recommends arrangements that will best meet the child/ren’s future care, welfare and developmental needs;
  • The main focus of the report is to consider the best interests of the child/ren.

Who Writes A Family Report?

The Family Report is prepared by a family consultant appointed by the Courts. Family consultants are psychologists and/or social workers who specialise in child and family issues after separation and divorce.

Related Article: Child Custody Myths You Need To Stop Believing

What Does the Family Report Process Involve?

Generally the family consultant will gather information about:

  • The issues in dispute;
  • Past and present parenting arrangements;
  • The parenting capacity of each party;
  • The child/ren’s relationships with significant people;
  • The child/ren’s wishes and views; and
  • Any risks to the child/ren.

Typically, the family consultant with gather this information by individually interviewing each parent and observing them interacting with the child/ren.

Complex cases may also involve interviewing other people who are involved in looking after the child/ren such as grandparents or step-parents. If appropriate, the child/ren may also be interviewed, however, this will depend on their age and the child/ren must consent to the interview.

A family consultant may also request the parents’ permission to contact teachers, doctors or other relevant professionals for more information about the child/ren.

Will I Get Access To The Family Report?

Yes, you or your lawyer will receive a copy of the Family Report prior to the hearing. It is possible (and not uncommon) for matters to settle based on what is contained in the Family Report.

What Happens If I Don’t Agree With The Family Report?

Parental disputes are perceptibly emotional and a stressful process for parents. For this reason it is not uncommon for one of both parties to disagree with the Family Report. It must be noted that the Family Report is only one source of evidence that the Court considers in making its decision. The Court is not bound by any recommendations made in the report. As with any evidence, the appropriate place to challenge the report is the Court itself.

If you wish to challenge the contents of the Family Report at trial you must call the family consultant as a witness. For this to occur, the family consultant needs at least 14 days’ notice in writing. Write to the family consultant at the address shown on your court correspondence.

The family consultant can be cross-examined in court at the hearing. In cross-examination you or your lawyer, the other parties and the judicial officer may ask the family consultant questions about the contents of the report and their assessment of the family.

Note: This is general information advice only and does not constitute specific legal advice. If you would like further information in relation to this matter or other legal matters, please contact us on 03 9620 0088 or email info@resolveconflict.com.au

 

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