A family consultant in family court has the responsibility to prepare a family report after conducting child and family assessments. The Federal Circuit and Family Court can order these reports under specific sections of the Family Law Act (1975).
Subsequently, the family consultant in family court has to prepare these family reports. These reports help courts to determine the best course of action when dealing with divorce or separation cases.
For example, court may order custody arrangements on the basis of a report given by a family consultant in family court of Australia.
Broadly, there are two main types of family reports that they prepare. These are:
- Child Impact Reports, and
- Family Reports
Parenting and child custody matters are one of the most disputed matters in family law. Therefore, these reports are very handy as they provide detailed information on the circumstances of the matter.
In this article, we will explore who a consultant in family court is, what their responsibilities are and what are the kinds of family reports they make.
Who Is a Family Consultant in Family Court?
Section 11B of the FLA (1975) provides a definition of consultant in family court. According to the FLA, a consultant is a person who is appointed as:
- a family consultant under Section 18ZH of the Federal Court of Australia Act (1976), or
- a family consultant under the regulations, or
- under law of a state, as a family consultant in relation to a Family Court of that state.
Moreover, Section 11A of the FLA (1975) highlights the various functions of a consultant in Federal Circuit and Family Court. We will explore the roles and functions in detail below.
When parties speak with a family consultant, no information they record is “confidential.” Family consultant “confidential reports” are rare. All information and evidence they gather is admissible in court. Thus, parties cannot speak “off-the-record” when talking to a family consultant.
Moreover, depending on the kind of information they gather, they can contact welfare authorities. For example, if they find that the child is being ill-treated, they have the authority to notify welfare authorities of the same. Importantly, they can also help parties chalk out parenting plans.
Family Consultants in Family Court: Two Types
A family consultant can either be an employee of the Court, or private practitioners who are family consultant appointed by Court. Employees of the court who act as family consultants hold the title of Court Child Expert.
Court Child Experts have specialist knowledge in child and family issues, and are generally highly qualified psychologists or social workers.
The Court’s Chief Executive Officer issues authorisations and appointments for Court Child Experts. Based on their authorisation and appointment, Court Child Experts can act as family counsellors and family consultants respectively.
Under the CEO’s family counsellor authorisation, a Court Child Expert has to fulfil the following responsibilities:
- provide advice about children when court registrars conduct court ordered dispute resolution conferences, and
- conduct triage interviews as part of the Court’s Lighthouse Project.
On the other hand, private practitioners have to show the court that they are qualified enough to fulfil the duties of a family consultant. They can either be from social work, psychiatry or psychology background. These consultants are often referred to as Regulation 7 Family Consultant, as they are appointed under the Family Law Regulations. Notably, courts cover costs for reports done by both types of consultants.
Types of Family Reports
As mentioned in the introduction, the family consultants in family court can prepare either a Family Report or a Child Impact Report.
A judge or registrar can order a family report under Section 62G of the Family Law Act (1975). Family report writers make a note of all evidence and information that is important during a divorce or separation case.
As mentioned above, either a Child Court Expert can prepare a report under their appointment as a family consultant, or a private practitioner (Regulation 7 Family Consultant) can prepare a family report.
In simple terms, a family report is an unbiased and independent family assessment that assist parties and the family court in making decisions about children in a divorce or separation hearing.
There are various things that the family report writer needs to consider while preparing the report. This includes the children’s development and experiences, the circumstances of the family, and all other matters relevant to the case.
Moreover, the family consultant will them make suggestions that are best suited to meet the child’s needs in terms of their welfare, care and development.
Child Impact Report
A Court Child Expert who works in the Court Children’s Services can prepare a child impact report. Court Child Expert is not the same as Independent Children’s Lawyer. A Child Impact Report provides information regarding the needs of the children, and their experiences.
When the Court Child Expert prepares the report, he/she considers many factors such as the child’s development, presence of risk factors in the child’s life (such as family violence), and the child’s relationships.
Essentially, a Child Impact Report will highlight the impact that these issues will have on the child and parenting. Moreover, such reports help judges and registrars to better understand the circumstances of the family law case.
Seeking Advice From Leading Lawyers
Family law matters involving parenting and child custody disputes are extremely complex to deal with. Moreover, the cases that require court intervention or family report can be very complicated and lengthy.
For parenting matters and other divorce and separation issues, parties can seek advice from experienced family lawyers. At JB Solicitors, our team of layers have a wealth of experience in handling different matters under family law.
Our award-winning team of solicitors have represented client both outside of court, and inside courts. Moreover, we offer mediation services for parties who wish to resolve conflicts around their present parenting arrangements outside court. For more information, contact our team today.