What Is A Family Report?
As part of family law parenting proceedings, the court can make an order for the parties and the children to attend upon a family consultant for the preparation of a family report. A family report is a report prepared by a psychologist or social worker, who is appointed by the court or nominated by the parties to provide an independent assessment of the parties and to make recommendations as to appropriate parenting orders. The purpose of the family report is to assist the Judge in making parenting orders that are in the best interests of the children.
Once the court has made the order for a family report to be prepared, the parties will be notified of the date and time the interviews are to be conducted. Both the parties and the children are required to attend the interviews, as well as any other important person requested by the family consultant. Generally, interviews are conducted on one day but can be conducted over several days.
As part of the interview process, any discussions with the family consultant will not be confidential and may be expressed in their family report. The family consultant will also take into consideration the Affidavits and material filed by the parties during the proceedings and any subpoena material when preparing their report. During the interviews the family consultant will discuss the positions of the parties, the issues in dispute and any expressed wishes of the children and the capacity of the parties’ to care for the children, among other matters. On the basis of the information before them, the family consultant will then form a view about the parties and make recommendations as to live with/spend time with arrangements that are in the best interests of the children. This view will be expressed in the family report.
The family report will then be released to the court and the parties’ solicitors to consider. At this stage, most parties’ are able to negotiate a final agreement giving consideration to the recommendations of the family consultant. If parties’ are able to reach an agreement and submit consent orders to the court they may not need to attend the next court Hearing. If the parties are unable to reach agreement then the matter will proceed to the next Hearing, which is often a Final Hearing.
The family report is one piece of evidence that the court must take into consideration when making parenting orders. If a party does not agree with the recommendations made by the family consultant they will have the opportunity to ask questions of the consultant under cross-examination at the Final Hearing. The court is not bound to follow the recommendations of the family consultant, and are required to only take into consideration the report.
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