In parenting matters, it is more often than not that the Court will make an Order for a Family Report to be prepared. Usually the Court will pay for a Family Report for the parties. However parties can engage a private family reporter where they have the resources to do so, or there is a need for an earlier report that the Court would not be able to obtain in short order. This means that parties might be able to have their parenting issues resolved quicker than otherwise.
A Family Report is a document written by a Family Consultant appointed by the Court. Family Consultants are generally qualified psychologists or social workers with experience working with families and kids. An independent assessment will be made by the Consultant about substantial issues pertaining to the matter at hand and in particular, it will assist the Court in making decisions about children’s arrangements.
Preparation for your family report interview
The primary focus of the report will be in relation to a child’s or children’s best interests and ultimately the report will contain the Consultant’s recommendations about arrangements (short and long-term) that will best meet their future care, welfare and developmental needs.
The Family Consultant would have before the interview read all parties’ materials as well as any materials that have been subpoenaed to best understand and explore the issues relevant to each case. It is therefore important that you read through both your affidavit materials as well as the other party’s materials before attending your interview.
What do you need to be mindful about during the interview?
In some cases, your child/children will be interviewed separately from the parents to give them the opportunity to express their views (more so when older child/children is/are involved). In other occasions, the child/children will be interviewed together with each parent in order for observations to be made of the interaction between each parent and the child/children. There may be some occasions where the Family Consultant will also meet other third parties such as step-parents (or a party’s new partner) or grandparents.
Please be mindful that whilst the Family Report is to remain strictly confidential between the relevant parties within the proceedings, what is said to the Family Consultant is not confidential and will be included in the report. If the matter reaches Final Hearing, it is likely the Family Consultant will be called to give evidence, or cross-examined.
It is important that you put your best foot forward in a Family Report interview. In saying that, here are a few pointers to bear in mind:
· Prepare in advance by reading all relevant Court materials, make some notes and bringing them with you to the interview;
· Always be honest. You should voice your concerns clearly but remain child-focused as opposed to engaging in a mouth-off contest about the other parent;
· Listen and think about your answers carefully before answering them.
What happens after the interview?
The report will be formally released (usually prior to a substantial Hearing) to all relevant parties. This report is strictly confidential and is not to be shown to any third parties including other family members without the Court’s permission.
Judges will often place significant emphasis/weight on the recommendations and views of the Family Consultant due to their expert and impartial status in the proceedings.
If you have any questions about your Family Report or wish for us to prepare you or any other questions regarding your parenting matter, please do not hesitate to contact our experienced family law team on 9614 7111.