In this video, CGW family lawyer Hannah Flanderka explains what a family report is, why it is sometimes required in family court proceedings and what it means for you and your children.
Hi. I’m Hannah. I’m a lawyer in the family law team at Cooper Grace Ward. The purpose of this video is to talk about what is a family report. It’s a common question we get quite a lot, and it is usually quite a significant part of court proceedings, or it may be a usual process in parenting that is generally for families. So, let’s have a look at it.
What is a family report?
A family report is prepared in circumstances where parties can’t agree for an arrangement as to their children, such as living or time or other matters. So, to address this disagreement, what can happen is one of two things. Either if the matter’s before a court already, the court can make orders requiring the parties to have a family report prepared by a family report writer. Or secondly, the parties of their own volition can choose to jointly engage a family report writer separately.
The family report writer is also called a family consultant, and a family consultant is usually a psychologist or a social worker with specialised knowledge in child and family issues, particularly in circumstances of separation. So, a family report is essentially a written document that’s prepared by the family consultant after having interviews with each of the parties, the children, and any other significant member of the family. So, this could be an aunt, a grandparent or even a friend of the family that is heavily involved in the day-to-day care of the children. Depending on the age of the children, they may be interviewed separately, or they may attend with one of the parents or both.
What might a family report recommend?
So, some of the recommendations that you might find in a family report ordinarily include things like short and long term recommendations for the care of the children. This can include living arrangements as well as their time and contact with either parent or a significant party in their lives. In addition, there can also be recommendations around risk factors. So, for example, if one parent may have some anger management concerns or things like that, there may be a recommendation that that parent attend an anger management course or some kind of parenting support or training program as well.
Do I have to attend the family report interview?
So, you might be wondering, do I have to go to the family report interview if it is court ordered, then yes, you absolutely do need to attend, because if you don’t, the family consultant is required to bring this to the attention of the court. And in any event, because both parties may be going to the expense of privately arranging the family report interview, it’s ideal to facilitate that process. If you do have any safety concerns or there’s risk factors in general though that you believe are relevant to your attendance, you can let the court know and a safety plan can be put in place to address that for the purposes of the interviews.
What documents do I need to provide?
In terms of what you tell or any documents that you provide, the family report writer for the interviews, it is admissible to the court as they’re appointed as a court expert. So, as a result, anything that you say should and ideally should be reflected in the report itself and can later be admissible if the family report writer cross-examined about the report during the proceedings. Therefore, anything that you say won’t be confidential, unfortunately. In addition, other than the court, the family consultant is also required to report any concerns as to risk for the children to the child welfare authorities. And if there’s a sense of an imminent risk to any person, they can also report it to the police.
So, having said all of this, the family report isn’t something to be afraid of, even though the process may seem daunting. At the end of the day, it is essentially the opportunity to obtain some independent evidence that the court can consider as to what the best interests of the children can be and it may well be the case that they make recommendations which reflect your position.
What should I do next?
If you have any concerns whatsoever about family reports or just have a family law enquiry in general, please do not hesitate to contact me or another member of the family at Cooper Grace Ward.