A family law consultant conducts family report interviews for the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia. These assessments take the form of a family report that can help the Federal Circuit Court deal with family law issues. Family law consultants are either a psychologist or social worker who help families during separation or divorce procedures.
Family reports are made for the benefit of children since the Federal Circuit Court must consider the child’s best interests. It is in the child’s best interests that they are safe from any type of harm. Furthermore, it is also in the child’s best interests to have a meaningful relationship with their parents and other significant people in their lives. This article will discuss points in relation to family law consultants and family reports.
Two Types of Family Reports
1. Summary Reports
Following the appointment or a series of appointments, the family consultant will prepare a summary report for the Court. This family report is presented in a shortened form and will usually provide the Court with a snapshot of the child and family issues between the parties. People may also refer to these family reports as Section 11 reports. These are used during interim hearings.
2. Specific Reports
The Court may direct a family consultant to provide the Court with a report on any matters relevant to the proceedings that the Court deems appropriate. Courts may also adjourn proceedings until they obtain a specific report.
The Family Consultant and the Family Law Act
The Family Law Act 1975 is a set of laws and regulations that state how to handle family law matters. Some family law matters include divorce and separation, parenting matters, child custody and support, and financial agreements. The Act also governs how the courts work with a family law consultant.
Section 11E: The Family Court and Family Consultants
Courts have the power to either order a party or a person to attend family counselling, family dispute resolution or to have an appointment with a family consultant. There are also programs and other services available that the courts may refer a party to. It is also mentioned in Section 11E of the Act that courts may seek advice from:
- A family consultant who is nominated by a chief executive officer of the family court
- A family consultant from another state or court
- An appropriately qualified person (social workers or psychologists) whether they are an officer of the court or not.
Section 11F: Family Law Consultants and Children
According to Section 11F of the Act, Courts may also order children to attend an appointment or a series of appointments with a family consultant. However, they must seek advice from a family consultant about the services appropriate to the parties or children’s needs. Children are usually also assessed in order to draft a child impact report.
A child impact report, as the name suggests, is a type of family report that assesses the impact of a divorce or separation on a child. Parents can gain a better understanding of how their divorce can affect their children through a child impact report. This report also assists the registrar or judge in understanding what is going on for a divorced or separated couple.
Section 11G: Failure to Attend a Family Consultant Session
At times, some parties may fail to attend a family consultant session. The consultant then has the duty to report the parties’ failure to attend the session to the family court. This is the same case with consultant sessions with children. Courts may also make any further orders it considers appropriate in addressing the failure.
What to Expect During Assessments?
A family consultant may make child and family assessments either in court or at their private practice. Some family law consultants may even request to visit each party’s home to observe the child/ren in a less stressful setting. The family consultant will notify the parties about the appropriate family report process and may occasionally request to interview additional family members.
A family law consultant will usually have a separate family report interview session with a child depending on the child’s age, maturity and willingness to participate. During these family report interviews, children are given the opportunity to express their views and opinions about the family law case. Here are some of the issues that a family consultant considers in his/her assessment:
- Relationship history and family violence history
- Past and present parenting matters or arrangements
- Nature of the child’s relationship with his/her parents
- Children’s wishes, opinions, and views
- The ability of each parent to encourage and develop their child’s or children’s relationship with the other parent
- The parenting capacity of each parent to have perception into their children’s needs
- Any risk factors that may affect children like family violence or substance abuse
Will the Family Law Consultant Recommend Anything?
Family consultants don’t simply listen and write down relevant information in order to draft a family report for the judge. They also offer recommendations regarding the division of parenting time and the possibility of awarding sole parental responsibility to a parent. A person with sole parental responsibility can make major-long term decisions for their children without the input of the other parent.
However, the court will always uphold equal shared parental responsibility if it is in the child’s best interests. Hence, the family law consultant will also make suggestions or recommendations that are in the child’s best interests. The level of detail in these recommendations will differ depending on the family consultant. Some family consultants will make specific recommendations, while others will make general remarks.
Objecting Family Reports
People may challenge the content of a family report if they believe that the assessment is unfair or unsatisfactory. However, people who want to object to a family report have about 13 days before the trial to notify the family consultant in writing. The courts will then call the family consultant and will cross-examine the family consultant during the hearing.
Importance of Seeking Legal Advice
Parents may feel nervous if the court ordered them to attend a session with a family law consultant. They may feel overwhelmed and confused about what to say during these family report interviews. Moreover, some parties may think that the contents of the family report are wrong or unjust.
JB Solicitors are here to ensure that our family lawyers can help parties understand a family report, and how to approach a family consultant. However, not all matters need to reach the stage of lengthy court procedures and family consultant assessment. Our firm offers affordable mediation services where we help disputed parties reach an amicable agreement that suits the needs and interests of everyone involved.
Contact a family lawyer today for any concerns regarding a family report or family consultant.