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Going to court to decide family matters brought about by separation and divorce is a difficult and complex process.
Emotions can run high and sometimes obscure rather than clarify the issues involved.
For this reason, family reports are used in courts deciding on family law matters as a way of providing the judge with a better understanding of the issues involved in a particular case.
How does the family report process work?
Your lawyer may recommend that you and the other parent agree on jointly instructing a psychologist in private practice to prepare a family report.
Alternatively, a family report may be sought by one of the parents, the Court or an independent children’s lawyer attached to the case. It should be noted that this report is only one of many sources that the court may potentially consider in deciding the case and it is important to understand that the report writer’s recommendations are not binding on the judge.
The person who writes the family report will be an accredited professional, usually a social worker or psychologist, with experience interviewing families dealing with separation.
The main aims of the report are to clarify the roles and responsibilities of each parent; the relationships of the child/ren with each parent, other close family members and significant people in their lives; any safety issues, such as where family or domestic violence is a factor; and any programs or support services which may be applicable in helping adults, children or both in dealing with new living arrangements.
The views of the child/ren (depending on their age and level of maturity) may also be canvassed by the report writer, as well as the opinions of each parent on what is in the best interests of the children.
How is the report compiled?
The consultant will speak to both the adults and children, either individually or together, in either a one 1-2 hour session or over a number of sessions. If together, the consultant will generally observe and interview each parent separately with their children. If either parent is living with a new partner, that person is also involved in the interviews.
These sessions will usually take place at the offices of the consultant, rather than in the home environment.
Significant extended members of the family such as grandparents may also be consulted in some family cases.
How will the report be used?
A family report is subject to the provisions of the Family Law Act 1975 which ensures that it must be seen only by the court, the parties to the family law case and their legal representatives, and the independent children’s lawyer (if there is one).
The report can only be released with the permission of the court.
The content of the report focuses on the care, welfare and development of the child/ren. It offers the court an insight into the nature of the relationship between the children and each parent, and the issues involved in the family dispute.
Recommendations may be made by the report’s author as to what arrangements he or she believes will meet the child’s best interests but, again, the report is only one source of evidence looked at by the court.
Consult experienced legal professionals
If you need more information on family reports, how they are written and used in court, or need assistance in preparing for the interview process, call South Geldard Lawyers today. Our family lawyers have many years of experience in helping people through the family report process.
It is important to seek specific advice regarding your circumstances as this fact sheet provides general information only and does not constitute legal advice.
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