Family reports in children’s matters

When an Initiating Application is filed in the Federal Circuit Court and the parties first appear before the Court for the Application to be heard, the Court will ordinarily make an order that a family report be prepared.

A family report is prepared by a family consultant, who is a psychologist or social worker qualified in children’s issues and particularly in dealing with separated families. A party may be required to pay the entire fee or a portion of the fee for a family report to be prepared if their financial circumstances permit them to do so, or otherwise the court may order and pay for a report to be prepared.

Family reports are very useful documents and the Courts are heavily reliant upon them to provide them with independent expert opinion as to what is in the best interests of children. The report writer will provide their recommendations as to what they believe is in the bests interests of the children with respect to with whom the children should live, what time they spend with the other parent, what school they go to and any other relevant matters.  Family reports can also assist parties in negotiating parenting arrangements without the further need from intervention of the Court.

The family report process is relatively straight forward and involves the parties, the children and any relevant third parties, for example a new partner or siblings of the children not involved in the proceedings, meeting with the family consultant in a series of interviews.

If either party fails to attend upon the family consultant for the purpose of the interview he or she may find themselves in breach of a Court Order. The family consultant is obliged to report the failure to attend to the Court. One would face a further disadvantage in that the family consultant would not be able to take into account the views of the non-attendee and would not have the benefit of seeing that parent interact with the child or children which may severely prejudice their case.

If you have obtained a family report and need assistance interpreting the report writer’s recommendations or would like advice on how to proceed with your family law matter please contact the family law team at McLaughlins Lawyers today on (07) 5591 5099.