A Family Report is a written document prepared by an independent social worker or a psychologist specialised in working with children and families. There are two types of Family Reports:
- The Court determines when a Family Report is required during the proceedings and appoints a family consultant to provide a summary of the issues between the parties (S11F report) or to provide a full report on the background, issues and recommendations; or
- The parties to the matter and/or an Independent Children’s Lawyer (”ICL”) organise for a privately-funded Family Report to assist with on-going parenting disputes.
All parties (except the children’s lawyer) to the proceedings with their child/children are required to attend the appointment at the given date and time in order to avoid delays to the matter. The fee for a private Family Report is determined by the consultant and is often split 50/50 between both parents, or can sometimes be funded by one party up front while the other party is to repay later on.
At the appointment, the consultant will interview the parties and the child/children individually by asking a series of questions and also observing the relationship and interaction between the parties and their child/children. It is also likely that significant people, such as partners, siblings or grandparents will be asked to be a part of the interview. The consultant is able to make recommendations to the Court to help parties reach an agreement in relation to the future custody and arrangement of their child/children.
The Family Report is used as a piece of evidence in the Court proceedings and the Court determines who is permitted to view or retain the report due to strict confidentiality associated with the report. Section 121 of the Family Law Act 1957 states the restriction on the publication of any documents without Court permission.
In preparation for the appointment, lawyers usually provide the family consultant with all Court documents filed on behalf of their client in relation to the proceedings, as well as prior reports or agreements. Good family lawyers can assist their clients with the following to help prepare for the interview:
- Taking their clients through the process of the interview;
- Assist their clients by helping them think about what arrangement is best for their child/children:
- Advising their clients to review previously filed Affidavits and other Court materials;
- Advising their clients to focus on presenting themselves appropriately, and focusing on the best interests of the children;
- Assisting clients to order their thoughts and views so that the consultant more easily understands the situation; and
- Advising their clients not to ‘coach’ their child/children of what to say and what not to say at the interview.
The lawyers or parties (if not represented) will receive a copy of the Family Report prior to the next Court hearing. It is sometimes common for matters to resolve based on the recommendations of the Family Report.
Our family law team at Nevett Ford are experts in guiding you through this and other necessary Court processes for parenting and property matters. Please contact one of our family team members on 03 9614 7111 if you would like further information about a Family Report, or require legal representation or advice in relation to parenting disputes.