A Family Report is a document written by a family consultant appointed by the Court. It provides an independent assessment of the issues in the case and can help the judge hearing the case to make decisions about arrangements for the child/ren. It may also help the parties reach an agreement.
In preparing the report, the family consultant considers the family’s circumstances, explores issues relevant to the case and recommends arrangements that will best meet the child/ren’s future care, welfare and developmental needs. The best interests of the child/ren are the main focus of the report.
The report must be formally released by the Court before parties can receive it. It cannot be shown to anyone other than the parties to the court case and their lawyers. It cannot be shown to other people, such as other family members, without the Court giving permission for this to happen. This is the case even for people who may have been interviewed but are not a party to the court case.
It is an offence, under s121 of the Family Law Act 1975, to publish or disseminate to the public, or a section of the public, any part of proceedings under the Act that identifies a party, a witness, or certain other persons.
What is a family consultant?
Family consultants are qualified social workers or psychologists, with skill and experience in working with children and families. They are appointed by the Court to help parents and judicial officers achieve the best outcomes for children. Family consultants are recognised as court experts in relation to children’s matters. For more information see the fact sheet Family Consultants.
How much does a Family Report cost?
A Family Report is ordered and provided by the Court and there is no cost to either party.
What happens after a Family Report is ordered?
You, or your lawyer (if you have one), will receive a letter or phone call from the Court advising you of appointment times and the location of interviews. Interviews may be conducted in the Child Dispute Services Section of the Court, or at other premises.
What information will the family consultant need to prepare the Family Report?
The family consultant may request your permission to contact teachers, doctors or other relevant professionals for more information about your child/ren. The Court may also direct that the family consultant has access to material which has been subpoenaed.
Generally, the family consultant will gather information about:
- the issues in dispute
- past and present parenting arrangements
- the parenting capacity of each party
- your child/ren’s relationships with significant people
- your child/ren’s wishes and views, and
- any risks to the child/ren.
Is the information provided to the family consultant confidential?
No. What is said to the family consultant is not confidential. All information gathered by the family consultant is admissible in court. The family consultant is required to include relevant information in the report and may also be required to give evidence in court.
What if I don’t agree with the Family Report?
The Family Report is only one source of evidence that the Court considers in making its decision. The Court is not bound by any recommendations made in the report. As with any evidence, the appropriate place to challenge the report is the Court itself.
If you wish to challenge the contents of the Family Report at trial, you must call the family consultant as a witness. For this to occur, the family consultant needs at least 14 days’ notice in writing. Write to the family consultant at the address shown on your court correspondence.
The family consultant can be cross-examined in court at the hearing. In cross-examination you (or your lawyer if you have one), the other parties and the judicial officer may ask the family consultant questions about the contents of the report and their assessment of the family.
For assistance and advice you can trust, Wiltshire Family Law specialise in all areas of Family Law and have a caring and compassionate team ready to assist you. We offer a free initial consultation, contact us to see where you stand today on 07 55541555.
Source: Family Court of Australia