Family reports are child and family assessments that help the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia in finding a resolution to a family law matter. When the Judge orders a family report, the Judge has the authority to mention the specific issues that the family report should address. The Judge can do this with or without both parties’ consent.
For example, there is an older child and both parties tell the Judge that the child wants to live with them. The Judge will then order that the report take the child’s viewpoints into account. Children need not express their opinions since family reports are not a means of interrogating a child. This article will cover Part VII, Division 3 of the Family Law Act 1975 and other relevant sections.
Section 62A: Preparation of Family Reports
Section 62A of the Act highlights points in relation to the preparation of a family report for proceedings relating to minor children i.e. children who are under 18. Parents must go to court, especially if there are disputes regarding parenting arrangements.
If the judge finds it hard to find a resolution and there is not much evidence, they may hire a family report writer. Family report writers are either social workers or psychologists and their duty is to conduct family report interviews for the court. This way, judges will have a clearer understanding of what to do during the proceedings.
Reports on the future parenting of the children will include recommendations from the judge and the family report writer. The judge doesn’t have to entirely accept such recommendations, however, the judge’s recommendation for parenting arrangements carries a lot of weight.
Section 62B: Courts Informing Parties Who Are Involved in Children’s Matters
Does the family court have to inform parties who are dealing with children’s matters about family counselling services, family dispute resolution methods, and other family services? Yes. In fact, as stated in Section 62B, the family court has the obligation to inform parties about these services that they can use to resolve family law matters. The court may also seek the advice of a family consultant about services that will cater to the parties’ needs.
62G: More Information About Family Reports and Family Consultants
According to Section 62G, family consultant reports only apply to the care, welfare, and development of a child who is under 18. The family court may also require the family consultant to submit a report on matters that the court thinks is desirable. Moreover, the court, if necessary, may also adjourn proceedings until they receive the report. When writing reports, family consultants must:
- Ascertain the views of the child
- Include those views in the report
- Consider the child’s age, maturity, and special circumstances when interviewing children.
When preparing family reports, the court may make any other orders or give any other directions that they consider appropriate. This may include ordering one or both parties to attend an appointment or a series of appointments with a family consultant. The same applies to children, however, the parties must arrange for the child to attend the appointment or series of appointments.
What If Parties Fail To Comply With Court Orders?
What happens if both parties refuse or fail to comply with court orders asking them to go to an appointment with a family consultant? Family consultants will then report the parties’ failure to the court. Court orders are legally binding so people who fail or refuse to comply with court orders may receive penalties.
Important Tips and Facts To Remember Before and During Family Interviews
- Family report writers will explain the process of the interview and the purpose of the interview. Take note that some questions will differ based on the case since each family’s circumstance is unique.
- The children will most likely be with one parent at the time of the interview, and then the other parent follows. If there is a history of family violence or lodged apprehended domestic violence orders (ADVOS), the children will have a separate interview.
- The report writer will almost always explain that it is his/her role to assist the Judge in making decisions about the children and their families. They will also explain that family reports will assist the judge in following the child’s best interests.
- They will also inform both parties that the report and its results are confidential to those who are only involved in the proceedings. Family report writers must not receive advice or coaching from judges or any other legal representatives.
- If the report writers have serious concerns about the safety of the children, they must notify the National Office for Child Safety. In some cases, the writer will not provide their report unless it is filed at the court for the judge’s review.
- Family report writers are trained and experienced in drafting a family report and will sometimes provide recommendations on parenting arrangements.
- It’s important that parents or parties involved in the proceedings do not coach the children on what to say during family report interviews. This is because it would defeat the purpose of getting unbiased opinions and views of the child.
When Will Parties Receive the Report?
Parties may receive the family report within 7-21 days once the interview is completed. If courts paid for the preparation of the family report, they will be the first to receive the family report. After receiving and reviewing the family report, the court will then release it to each party’s legal counsel. It’s important that parties update their contact details if they don’t have a lawyer during the proceedings.
On the other hand, family reports may also be privately funded which means courts won’t have to pay for the costs of the preparation. If this is the case, each party’s family lawyer can receive the family report or the parties can directly receive it if they have no lawyers.
The Importance Of Seeking Advice From Family Lawyers
To summarise, a family report is a legal document that will include all the findings and assessments of families and their children during a family law proceeding. Hence, preparation is crucial before going to a family report interview to ensure that all details included in the report are accurate.
Our family lawyers at JB Solicitors can help distraught parties to understand the child’s best interests and the best way they can approach these interviews. We also have mediation services for parties who want to reach an agreement about parenting arrangements rather than going through the family interview process.
Contact us today for more information about family reports.