How to prepare for a family report
A family report is a very important document in a parenting case. It is prepared by an independent expert and the information it contains and the recommendations made, are powerful. If you are involved in one, you should be well prepared. Here are some valuable tips.
What is a Family Report?
A family report can be ordered by the court or the parties can agree to get one prepared privately.
A family report is a professional written assessment of a family based on interviews with the parents and any other significant adults, age-appropriate interviews with the children, observations of each parent with the children, and a review of any court documents (if the case is in court) including any subpoenaed documents. If the case is not in court then the parties might provide the report writer with some other written material to give them some background to the matter and the issues in dispute.
The family report writer will be a social worker or psychologist who is experienced in dealing with parenting arrangements for children, whose parents are separated.
Therefore, the report writer will make recommendations regarding the parenting arrangements which they believe will be in the best interests of the children. Those recommendations will assist the judge in making decisions about the arrangements for the children or assist the parents to reach an agreement.
The court is not bound by the recommendations in the report. However, as an independent expert the report writer’s evidence and recommendations are generally very persuasive. As with any evidence, the appropriate forum for challenging the report is at a trial by cross-examination of the report writer.
Preparing for Interviews
- First of all, tell the truth. Misrepresentations and lies can be easy to spot by trained professionals and are likely to catch up with you. This could raise doubts about the truthfulness of all of your other information.
- Remember key information and avoid relying on written information. Personal recollections are seen as more genuine.
- Consider your proposal for parenting arrangements, particularly how it will impact on the children.
- Consider the other party’s proposal and how that would work if that is what ends up happening.
- The best interests of the children are the paramount consideration so consider the needs of each child and keep them in mind throughout the process.
- Answer questions directly, without providing unnecessary detail. The report writer will ask for further details if required.
- All interviews are conducted differently, depending on the particular report writer. Don’t expect a specific format.
- Nothing you say to the report writer is confidential. Anything could end up in the report.
Parents can provide age appropriate information to the children prior to the day of interviews:
- Keep it simple and straight forward.
- Try not to create anxiety and don’t exaggerate or minimise the child’s role and views.
- Don’t tell them what to say – or not say.
For more information regarding family reports, please do not hesitate to contact our office on (07) 3221 4300 to arrange an appointment with one of our experienced family lawyers.