What is a Family Report and What can I expect?
A Family Report is usually prepared by a Social Worker or Psychologist upon agreement of the parties or Order of the Court. A Family Report Writer’s role is to meet with both parents and the Children and provide a report to the Court regarding their observations and their recommendations as to the progress of the matter, including time arrangements which in their view are in the best interests of the Children and any concerns that there may be in regards to the capacity of either parent. In undertaking their interviews, Family Report Writers will usually meet with the parents individually and the Children individually. They will also usually observe how each parent interacts with the Children in separate sessions.
A Family Report provides Children a voice as it is this document which details the wishes and concerns of the Children. It is important to note however that the Children’s wishes are just one of many factors in determining a parenting matter. The Court is not bound to follow the wishes of Children, however, usually with Children 12 years and over, their wishes are afforded greater weight.
It is important to be aware that if you are not involved in the Court process, that a Family Report Writer must beppointed jointly by the parties. Should this not be the case, one party may later not accept the recommendations of the Family Report writer if they are not happy with them. In this respect, a Family Report is sometimes useful to assist parties in reaching an agreement at Mediation before Court proceedings are initiated. This is in contrast to when a matter is before the Court and the Court appoints such Family Report Writer as a Court Expert.
Although not bound to follow the recommendations of the Family Report Writer, the Judges are usually closely guided by them in matters, particularly in the early stages of a matter where there is little other evidence upon which the Judge may rely.
You should ensure that you and the Children have snacks packed and activities for the Children to undertake for the day of the Family Report interviews as they usually take most of the day and there will likely be long periods of waiting.
The Family Report Writer should be provided copies of the Court documents of each party prior to the interviews, so they should be aware of the background information and issues in your matter before speaking with you. The Family Report Writer will ask you a series of questions regarding your life, the relationship history and any concerns that you may have. Depending upon the Client, we sometimes recommend that Clients take short dot-point notes into the interviews so as to refresh their memory as to matters that they wish to raise with the Family Report Writer.
It is sometimes difficult, depending upon the ages of the Children to explain why they are attending Family Report Interviews. As to this issue, we consider that the following brochures produced by the Family Court of Australia are useful:
- Why am I going to see a Family Consultant: Information for kids aged 9–12
- Why am I going to see a Family Consultant: Information for kids aged 5-8
It is important that all parties are as natural as possible in the interview process so the Family Report Writer can make a reasonable assessment of your circumstances. In saying this, practically we as Family Lawyers are aware that this is sometimes difficult, considering the artificial nature of the interviews and observations with the Children.
Should you have any questions regarding whether a Family Report may be appropriate for your matter or wish to discuss parenting matters generally, please contact our office on (07) 5679 8016 for a free fifteen minute telephone chat with a Family Lawyer.