How a Family Report can help your children
One of the most important questions for the Family Court to consider is the wishes of children. Parents often differ in their views of what their children really want, so to gain an independent understanding of a child’s wishes a family report is often obtained. So what is it? And how do you get it?
How to get a Family Report?
A family report can be mutually agreed to be obtained by the parties, without any involvement of the court. If an agreement to get one can’t be obtained, then an application can be made to the court to request one. If a court application is made, the parties involved can either agree on a private report writer or ask that the court appoint a Family Consultant.
Who Prepares the report?
A Family Report is usually prepared by private social worker or child physiologist. If the court orders
the preparation of a report, it can direct that the parties pay for a private report or the court can arrange for the report to be done by the court. That is then done by a ‘Family Consultant’. A Family Consultant is a qualified social worker or psychologist, with experience in working with children.
The Report Process:
The Family Consultant will conduct a series of interviews with the children, their parents, and other significant people in the lives of the children. They can also ask for parents’ permission to contact teachers, doctors or other professionals to give more information about the children.
Generally, interviews with the Family Consultant are conducted face to face, over the course of a day or several days, but with current COVID-19 restrictions in place, some interviews may now take place over video.
If anyone involved in the report has concerns for their safety, they should tell the Family Consultant before the interviews take place.
The Family Consultant will gather information about, but not limited to:
- The issues in dispute
- Past and current parenting arrangements
- The parenting capacity of each parent
- The children’s relationship with significant people
- The children’s views and wishes
A Family Report may also include recommendations to the court about:
- Parental roles and responsibilities
- How the children will spend time with, and communicate with, their parents, family members and other significant people in their lives
- Safety concerns
- Support services that may help the children or adults, for example, attending a parenting program
It’s important to note that what you tell the Family Consultant is not confidential, everything is admissible in court. The Family Consultant may also be required to give evidence.
How to Prepare:
If you’re preparing for an appointment with a Family Consultant, there are a few things to think about, such as:
- Think about what is best for your children and why you think that is best for them
- Tell the children they’re going to see someone who will help them spend time with people who are important to them
- You may need someone to look after the children while you’re being interviewed
- Bring something to keep the children entertained if they have to wait – a game or activity, and don’t forget some snacks and drinks for the children as well.
The report is released prior to the court hearing date and is only intended for parents and their lawyers. It’s expected that parents not share the report with any other people, especially the children.
The court is not bound by the recommendations in the report and if you disagree with the contents of the report, that can be challenged during a court hearing under cross-examination.
If you need help with a family law issue, contact Michael Lynch Family Lawyers to book a fixed-fee initial consultation, phone (07) 3221 4300 or fill-out an appointment booking form, here.