What is a family report and how is it used?
The court or an independent children’s lawyer (if one has been appointed) may organise a family report during family law proceedings. A family report provides information about you, your children and your family to help the court identify what is in your children’s best interests. A family report is one of many documents that the court will consider when making decisions about your children.
A family report may include recommendations to the court about:
- parental roles and responsibilities
- how your children will spend time and communicate with their parents, family members and other significant people in their lives
- any safety issues
- support services or interventions that may help the children or adults, like attending a post-separation parenting program, for example.
Who writes the family report?
An accredited professional, such as a social worker or psychologist, will write the family report. This report writer usually has a lot of experience working with children and families. The court considers report writers to be independent experts in child and family matters.
How is the information for a family report collected?
- The report writer will speak to the adults and children.
- The report writer will decide whether they need to see the children and adults together as well as individually.
- The report writer usually sees everyone at their offices and does not usually attend your home.
- The report writer will determine who they need to see and speak to during the course of your scheduled appointment/s.
- The adults and children involved in the court proceedings will also be involved in the family report assessment.
- The report writer may involve other household members and significant others (eg extended family and friends) if they think it is necessary.
The report writer may collect information about:
- your children and their individual needs
- your children’s relationships with family members and significant others
- your children’s views – if they want to tell the report writer
- your views about what is in your children’s best interests
- your family history, including the history of parenting roles and arrangements and the relationships between the adults (past and present)
- what is currently happening in your child’s life
- issues relevant to the children’s and adults’ safety.
- If you have any questions about your family report appointment you can ask the independent children’s lawyer (if there is one), your lawyer (if you have one) or the report writer.
How to prepare for your appointment with the report writer:
- think about what is best for your children and why you think it is best for them.
- Tell the children they are going to see someone that is helping you to work out the best way for the children to spend time with people who are important to them.
- The amount of time the appointment takes will vary (depending on the issues and the number of people involved) but you will probably be there for most of the day.
- Whoever is bringing the children needs to bring someone to look after them while the adults are being interviewed.
- Bring food, drinks and some things to keep the children entertained.
- The adults should bring along, or have in mind, a play activity they can do with the children as the report writer may want to observe the children spending time with the adults.
How will the report writer use the information they collect?
The report writer will use the information they collect during this process to write the family report. The information you provide to the report writer cannot be kept confidential. The court can access any information collected by the report writer, even if it is not used in the final family report. If the matter goes to a hearing, the report writer may be required to give evidence at your hearing.
Who will see the family report?
Once the report writer has finished writing the family report, a copy will be given to:
- the court
- the independent children’s lawyer (if one has been appointed)
- you or your lawyer (if you have one)
- the person you are in dispute with or their lawyer (if they have one).
No one else will be given or shown a copy of the report.
Who will tell my child about the court’s decision?
Usually the parents explain the court’s decision to the children. In some instances, the report writer and the independent children’s lawyer may explain the outcome to your children when the court has made its final decision.
What if I have concerns about the report or the report writer?
If you have concerns about the report, the process used, or the report writer you can talk to us about what options are available in these circumstances.
What if I have concerns about my safety?
Sometimes people have concerns about their safety, or their children’s safety, around other people who will be involved in the family report. It is important for the report writer to know if you are concerned about your safety or if there are protection orders in place, so steps can be taken to ensure the safety of everyone involved in the report process.
If you would like more information about a family report, please contact us at Freedom Law for an in person or online consultation.