Family reports are prepared by an independent third party, usually an experienced social worker, family consultant or psychologist who will interview both parents and their children, and provide non-binding but highly persuasive recommendations to the Court regarding the best interests of the children following the separation of their parents. In this blog, we will explore what to expect at family report interviews and how to best prepare for this important step in the family law process.
How Family Report Interviews are Arranged
The Court can make an order for a family report to be prepared if there are issues involving children which you and the other parent cannot agree upon. The Court will include, in the order, what issues the family report is to cover, however, it is usually up to the parties to agree on who will act as the family report writer as well as how the report will be funded.
The Interview Process and the Issues Covered in the Report
The family report interview usually takes place at the office of the report writer and can last the whole day. The interviews are confidential. The report writer will meet with each parent individually, meet with the children depending on their age, observe their interactions with the children, and review any relevant documentation such as Court orders, police reports, or previous assessments to gain a comprehensive understanding of the family’s situation.
A family report will usually cover:
- Any relevant issues in the dispute;
- The children’s future care, welfare, and development needs;
- Any recommendations as to what is in the best interests of the children with respect to living arrangements and time with each parent; and
- Any recommendations for either parent to participate in a psychiatric assessment, counselling, or a parenting program.
How to Prepare for a Family Report Interview
Before attending a family report interview, we recommend the following:
- Plan your trip to the report writer’s office. Calculate travel time and parking arrangements in advance as this helps minimise stress;
- Be aware that you may see the other parent coming or going from the interview room;
- Plan for the interview to last the whole day: we recommend that you bring activities and food for the children as this will keep them occupied and fed and create a good impression in the opinion of the report writer;
- Decide what care arrangements you consider to be in the best interests of the children, and the reasons why these arrangements are best for the children as opposed to any arrangements proposed by the other parent: we recommend you speak with your lawyer who can help you prepare for this;
- Think of examples on how you can demonstrate that your relationship (and the other parent’s relationship) with the children is positive: it will be favourable to your case if you can demonstrate that you can meet the needs of the children, including their routines, and their need to have a meaningful relationship with the other parent;
- The Federal Circuit and Family Court website has age-appropriate videos about family report interviews that you can watch with your children. Under no circumstances should you coach your children on what to say during the interview. The report writer is likely to pick up on this, and if they do, it will be detrimental to your case;
- Gather any relevant documents that might be useful at the interview including parenting plans and school reports;
- Be aware that observations start in the venue and it is likely that the building will be under video surveillance; and
- Let the report writer know in advance if English is your second language.
What to do on the Day of the Interview
To create a good impression on the day of the interview, we recommend that you dress yourself and the children in smart, casual attire and arrive on time for the interview. During the interview, you should answer all questions honestly, be respectful to the report writer, and always focus on what is in the best interests of the children.
When Family Reports are Released
The report writer will usually disclose when they will release their report. Reports are usually released 7 to 21 days after the interview has taken place. The report writer will usually send the report to the Court before it is provided to the parties. There are 21 days to ask questions to the report writer and furthermore, any change in circumstances since the interviews were conducted, or errors of fact in the report, should be addressed as questions to the report writer within the 21-day time frame.
Family report interviews play an important role in family law proceedings in Australia. By approaching the interview with honesty, respect, and a child-centered approach, you can support the best interests of the children and contribute to a positive outcome.
To arrange your free initial consultation with a specialist Family Lawyer at Pearsons Lawyers contact us today or call 1300 699 688 and know where you stand.