How do Family Reports work?

How do Family Reports work?

By Kayla Curtis

· Read time: 7 minutes

A family report is a report conducted by a specialised family consultant. These reports are given to the Court, and outline the recommendations of the report writer, which are given considerable weight by the Courts. 

What is a family report?

A family report is an independent family assessment that is conducted by the family consultant. The family consultant will meet with each parent (and sometimes family members) and the child to watch how they interact with each other. 

This report outlines recommendations to the Court in respect to the children and their relationship with each parent. 

When are Family Reports requested by the Courts? 

A family report is often ordered by the Courts when a matter is progressing to a final hearing.

Once a report has been ordered by the Court, you or your lawyer will receive a letter with the time, date and location of the interview. 

What happens in a family report interview?

Family consultants are trained to watch for how each parent interacts with the children, how each parent speaks about the other parent, and if there is any “coaching” of children to answer questions in a particular way. 

Any information spoken about during the interview is considered not confidential. 

Once a family consultant has finished the session with each family member, and will often speak with the children (as long as the child is old enough to communicate), they will then generate a report for the Courts. 

As stated above, this report will outline recommendations for the Court to consider during its deliberations. 

What weight does a family report have in court?

The Court generally gives considerable weight to these recommendations and therefore your understanding of a family report session is invaluable. 

What is the cost of a family report?

Undertaking a family report with a family consultant does not incur any cost to either party involved.

What kind of questions are asked in a family report?

In a family report, the family consultant may ask a range of questions to gather information about the family situation. These questions can cover various topics such as family history, relationships, parenting arrangements, and the children’s needs and preferences. 

The family consultant may also observe interactions between family members and review relevant documents such as court orders, reports, and medical records. 

The specific questions asked will depend on the nature of the family law matter and the issues in dispute.

Safety Concerns with child inclusive family report interviews

If you have any safety concerns in relation to attending the family report interview, it is imperative that you inform the Court about these concerns. 

Failure to attend a family interview may result in your matter being delayed and a costs order put against you. Informing (or having your lawyer inform) the Court of current or impending family violence orders is required by law.

Contact either your lawyer or the National Enquiry Centre on 1300 352 000, to discuss your safety needs when attending a family report interview.

What happens once the Report is complete?

Once the family report is completed, the family consultant will give it to the ordering judge or registrar, who will then release it to the parties. You or your lawyer, the otherside or their lawyer and any Independent Children’s Lawyer appointed will receive a copy of the report once it is released by the ordering Judge or Registrar. 

Once the report is released, it is considered evidence in your matter.

In many cases, when the report is released to the parties, an agreement can be reached due to the contents of the report. If this happens, and the parties sign and submit consent orders, the parties may not need to return to Court.

It is important to understand that the report writer may contact you before the interviews to gather additional information, however you are not permitted to contact the report writer after your interviews have ceased. 

Family Report FAQs

What duty of care do Family Consultants have?

Family consultants must notify the relevant child welfare authority if they reasonably suspect:

  • A child has been exposed, at risk of, or has been subjected to psychological harm, 
  • A child is at risk, has been or subjected to being abused, 
  • A child is, or at risk of being ill treated.

The family consultant may also contact the police if they reasonably believe that a person is at imminent risk of being harmed or seriously injured.

Is the Family Report “confidential”?

It is an offence under s 121 of the Family Law Act 1975 to  publish or disseminate to the public any part of the proceedings pertaining to an individual. You must not show anyone the report unless authorised by the judge to do so. 

Can a friend attend with me?

The purpose of a family report is to provide an independent assessment of the family situation, and having a friend present could compromise the objectivity of the process. However, you may be able to have a support person attend with you, such as a family member, therapist, or lawyer. 

It is important to discuss this with the family consultant beforehand to ensure that the support person is appropriate and does not interfere with the process. 

Ultimately, the decision of whether a support person can attend will depend on the circumstances of the case and the discretion of the family consultant.

How long does it take to receive the Family Report?

The timeline for the issuance of the Family Report is typically communicated by the Family Consultant. 

This can range from 7 to 21 days, depending on various factors such as the complexity of the case. In cases where the Court is responsible for paying for the Family Report, the completed report is usually sent by the Family Consultant to the Court, which then distributes the report to the involved parties through their respective Family Lawyers. 

If a party doesn’t have a Family Lawyer, it is crucial to ensure that their contact information is up-to-date with the Court. 

On the other hand, in cases where the Family Report is privately funded and not paid for by the Court, the Family Consultant usually provides the report directly to the parties’ Family Lawyer, or to the parties themselves if they do not have a Family Lawyer.

Key Takeaways

In conclusion, attending a child inclusive family report interview is a crucial step in the family court process. As the report is ordered by the Court and given considerable weight, it is essential that all parties attend the interview and provide truthful and relevant information.

While options are available if safety concerns arise, it is important to remember that the family report is considered evidence in your matter and must not be shown to anyone without authorisation from the Court.

Ultimately, by participating in the family report process, you can help ensure that the Court has the necessary information to make a fair and informed decision regarding your family’s future.

If you require any additional information, or assistance with any aspect of family law, please contact our firm on 1300 933 191, or book in a time to chat with one of our lawyer via the form below.

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