Have you been told you need a Family Report?
If you are going through the process of separation and children are involved it is likely that a Family Report will be required. Parents often find this process daunting and worry about what effect the report will have on the outcome of time spending arrangements with their children. Here is what you need to know about Family Reports and tips to make a good impression.
What is a Family Report?
A Family Report is a document written by a Family Consultant (commonly referred to as a Report Writer) appointed by the Court in parenting matters. A Family Consultant is generally a qualified social worker or psychologist whose role is to provide an independent assessment of the issues in the case and make recommendations as to parenting arrangements for the child/ren. Those recommendations assist the parents and Judge hearing the case to make an interim and/or final determination about the most appropriate parenting arrangement.
How is a Family Report prepared?
The Court will Order that a Family Report be prepared in most parenting matters, however the parties (through their legal representatives) can also jointly commission a Family Report. The Report Writer will have access to all of the material in the matter including affidavits of the parties or other witnesses and copies of any subpoenaed material. The Report Writer will then conduct interviews with both parents, the partners of each parent, the children and other members of your household. These interviews will be held at either the Court or at the office of the Report Writer. You should be aware that nothing is confidential and anything you say to the Report Writer may be recorded and put into the Family Report.
What to say to the children about the Family Report?
Depending on the age of the children, the Report Writer may interview them to determine their wishes or views. It is important to remember however, that the primary consideration is what is in the best interests of the child and the parenting arrangement ordered by the Court may be contrary to the child’s wishes. If the Report Writer requests an interview with your child you should explain that they are going to see a Family Consultant because the Court is interested in their views and want to know what they think. You should encourage your child to speak freely and that no matter what they tell the Family Consultant, you will support them and accept their input. It is important that you in no way influence your child as to what to say or pressure them to talk about what they said. However, your child may wish to express how they are feeling and it is important you support them at this time.
The Court often places significant weight on the recommendations of the Report Writer given their experience with child welfare matters and impartial status in the proceedings. It is therefore extremely important that you are prepared for the interview with the Report Writer to ensure that you put your best foot forward.
Tips to make a good impression
- Be honest – You need to be honest and be yourself. The Report Writer has often read much of the Court material and will know the details of the dispute and past behaviour.
- Focus on the child/ren – Like the Court, the Report Writer’s primary consideration is the best interests of the child. Make a good impression by focusing on the child/ren and not the negatives of the other party.
- Be mindful of your actions not just your words – The Report Writer will not only be listening to your responses but also watching your interactions around the child/ren and other parties. Avoid reacting to confrontation and give an impression that you are responsible enough to not let your emotions control you.
- Be available and co-operative – Well prepared and efficient people will always make a good impression.
- Always be on time – Treat the interview like a job interview and make a good impression from the beginning by being on time.
- Dress well – The Report Writer is human and will be influenced by your appearance. If you dress well, it will show you are taking the process seriously.
- Be respectful and courteous – Avoid bad language and voice your concerns clearly. Be respectful of the other parties and avoid negative remarks about the other parties or the legal system.
- Avoid aggression – Aggressive behaviour is never helpful. At best, it will bring your character into question and at worst it may raise questions about the risk you pose to the child/ren.
- Avoid directly contacting the Report Writer – If you are not happy with the Family Report or the recommendations, the appropriate place to challenge it is the Court itself. Avoid contacting the Report Writer. You should raise your concerns with your lawyer (if you have one) or in Court if you do not.
For more information about the Family Report process or your parenting matter, please contact our experienced Family Law team today