What is a family report?
A Family Report may be ordered by the Court in family law proceedings and are prepared by Family Consultants. Child Experts practicing as a family consultant may also prepare the report. These reports are ordered when proceedings are nearing a final hearing.
Family Reports are independent assessments that assist the Court in making decisions about the children. They also assist the parties in understanding the children and making appropriate decisions.
The family consultant will consider the children’s experiences within the family, the circumstances of the family and all other issues which are relevant to the case. After considering all the relevant factors, the family consultant will then make recommendations which are best suited to the children’s future needs, such as care arrangements and developmental needs.
When a family report is ordered, you or your lawyer will receive correspondence from the court with the details of the appointment with the family consultant, where you and the children will need to attend.
If you do not attend, the report will not get completed which will cause delay and additional cost. If exceptional circumstances exist, you will be able to rearrange the appointment.
There is no cost to either party for the report to be completed.
If you have safety concerns associated with attending the appointment, you must let the Court know in advance, so options to ensure your safety are considered.
You may bring a support person with you, however it is up to the consultant as to whether they can accompany you in the interview.
Preparing your child for the interview
It is important to explain to your child that they will be meeting with someone who would like to know about their experiences and views on the family situation. The child must know that they are not obliged to speak about things if they do not want to.
It is very important not to coach your child on what to say in the interview.
A series of interviews will be conducted with members of the family. This can be done in one day or multiple days. These interviews will be conducted individually.
In most circumstances, the children will be seen separately to the adults.
Key information considered
The key information which is gathered by the family consultant includes:
- The issues in dispute;
- Previous and current parenting arrangements;
- Each party’s parenting capacity;
- The relationships of the children with significant people;
- The children’s opinions, views and wishes; and
- Any risk factors.
Is the information confidential?
No. The information will be provided to the Court and may be used as evidence.
What happens once the report is completed?
The report will be provided to the judge upon completion. Copies of the report will then be released to each party.
You will not be able to share the report to any other person without the permission of the Court. It is an offence to do so.
What if you do not agree with the contents of the report?
If you wish to challenge the contents of the report, you will be given the opportunity to do so during cross examination in Court.
The Family Consultant must first be called as a witness and given 14 days’ notice in writing. Your legal representative will then be able to ask questions about the contents of the report.