A child impact report in Australia (Section 11F Report) helps judges and courts gain more insight into family law proceedings. These reports are generally used in the early stages of parenting proceedings as compared to family consultant reports. On the other hand, family consultant reports are used in a final hearing.
The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia will attempt to keep children out of parenting matters. Generally, children are not required to testify in court as witnesses and give opinions about parenting arrangements. Parents also must not discuss the case with their children.
However, it can help provide information about a child’s needs and experiences. This includes their developmental needs, relationships, and the presence of risk factors like family violence or abuse. This article will discuss information revolving around a child impact report in Australia.
The Court Child Expert
A court child expert is a person who prepares a child impact report in Australia. A qualified psychologist or a social worker who specialises in child and family issues after divorce or separation can act as a court child expert. The court child expert’s job is to visit the parties separately for an evaluation and occasionally observe each parent’s interaction with their kids.
How Do They Draft a Child Impact Report Australia?
These experts then provide a short-form assessment to the Court and assist a Senior Registrar in drafting an interim decision at a hearing. Parties may then proceed to reach a final agreement through family dispute resolution or mediationif the report provides enough evidence and information. A child impact report in Australia will usually include:
- Parenting matters that caused the dispute between the parties
- Areas where both parties are in agreement
- Recommendations on what’s the next best step to take like child care and living arrangements
- Any other recommendations like counselling for the children or parenting programs and family counselling for the parties.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic struck, courts may require parties to attend online video conferences like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Then a second session is held where the court child expert may proceed with observations of the parent-child relationship. These experts also have access to court documents that both parties submitted such as subpoenas, police records, and medical records.
The Assessment Procedure
The assessment procedure will typically involve the court child expert evaluating parents, kids, and any other parties involved in the case. After a series of evaluations and interviews, the expert then prepares the report. Both parties are not required to pay for the evaluation. Furthermore, a child impact report in Australia includes two stages which are the:
1. Parent Meeting
Each parent will have separate interview sessions with the court child expert either in online video conferences or in person. Also, each parent can expect the following during the interview session:
- Questions about the children like their relationship with them and daily routines.
- Identifying if the child is at risk of family violence
- Making enquiries about risks during the meeting or allegations made in the court proceedings
- Discuss any options after separation like future parenting or the relationship with the other party
- Making any enquiries about any other parenting matter that may affect the child’s best interests or mental health
- Discuss living and care arrangements, visitation schedules, and parenting time with each parent.
2. Child Meeting
Kids will then have the opportunity to express their feelings and sentiments to the court child expert once everything is in order. It’s important to remember that these professionals are not here to pressure the child. Rather, they ensure that children have a safe space to express opinions, feelings, and views about the family dispute.
In most cases, a meeting with the child is conducted in person. If there is more than one child in the family, then the expert will interview them separately. Any details the parties or kids give to court child experts are not confidential. The court child expert’s findings are all acceptable in court and are used as evidence in a family law case.
Finalising The Report
When everything is in order, the court child expert will complete the report and directly submit it to the court. The Judge or Registrar will then release the report to the parent or the lawyer’s parent. Courts may use the report as evidence once the report is released to the concerned parties. Court child experts will also go through a cross-examination after the report is released.
A child impact report helps courts understand the relationship between the children and their parents. Having this report will also help them identify what’s the next best step in handling the case. This report can also help disputed parties learn more about the kid’s experiences during the interview. Moreover, this can also help them realise the effect of their divorce or separation.
How to Prepare For Parent Meetings
It’s completely understandable if parents feel nervous or stressed out during parent meetings. After all, a lot is on the line since this may lead to custody disputes and further issues. However, the purpose of child impact reports is to identify what’s best for the children, and not make a parent look bad. During parent meetings, it’s highly recommended that parents follow these tips:
- Review and understand affidavit materials
- Take notes during parent meetings
- Understand that the meeting is for their child’s welfare
- Draft the best arrangement for their children and explain why it is the best arrangement for them
- Avoid coaching children since this may put them in a bad light
- State backed-up facts and remain honest throughout the meeting
- Seek advice from a family lawyer
Importance of Seeking Legal Advice
Seeking legal advice is the best tip that parents can use when they are involved in cases that require a child impact report in Australia. JB Solicitors’ family lawyers have the best lawyers that can explain a parent’s duties and responsibilities during parent meetings and in the family court if required. Our team values children’s rights as much as parents do whenever they are facing court hearings.
Opting For Mediation
In some cases, parents may also decide on out-of-court arrangements in order to save more time and money. Our mediation services also help clients decide on future care arrangements and resolutions that can cater to their needs and best interests. This helps parents explain their side and sentiments without the court’s involvement.
Contact a family lawyer today from JB Solicitors.