When a parenting dispute is before a Court, the presiding judge will often order that a Family Report be produced. A Family Report is a document written by a family consultant that details all the issues in dispute, including:
the past and present living arrangements of the children;
the parenting capacity of the parents and any new partners;
potential risk of harm factors; and
the wishes of the children.
A family consultant is a trained psychologist and/or social worker who specialises in child and family law issues after separation.
What impact does a Family Report have?
The report provides an independent assessment of the case and will assert recommendations that will best meet the child/ren’s future care, welfare and developmental needs.
What impact, if any, the Family Report has upon the exercise of a court’s discretion will only be determined after the report writer has been cross-examined and the report is considered with all other relevant evidence. The author of a Family Report will be required to attend court for cross examination if notice is given at least 14 days in advance of a hearing.
Ultimately, the role of a Family Report is to provide the Court with an expert opinion and it is one of many evidentiary matters that may influence a courts determination of a matter.
How much does a Family Report cost?
When a Family Report is ordered and provided by the court, there is no cost to either party. Parties can elect to attend upon a private family consultant and pay privately for this assessment. There are certain requirements that must then be met for such a report to be admitted as evidence.
I’ve been ordered to attend upon a family consultant for the purposes of preparing a Family Report… what now?
You must attend the appointment. If you do not attend, this may result in a delay to your proceedings and additional costs. Your child/ren must also attend. Additionally, other significant people may be required to attend, such as new partners, grandparents or half-siblings.
The family consultant will ask you questions relevant to your parenting matter. They may ask you to detail the history of the relationship, if there are any risk of harm factors and what you are proposing. The family consultant may also be granted access to any subpoenaed material produced in proceedings.
The child/ren will typically be seen separately from the parents. They will have an opportunity to express their views if they choose to. The family consultant will then observe the child/ren interacting with both parties and make comments about their observations.
If you would like some advice specific to your circumstances, please contact the team at Turnbull Hill Lawyers on 1800 994 279 or visit our contact us page.