January 22, 2020

Preparing for Family Reports in Family Law proceedings


By Jin Wang

What is a Family Report?

The purpose of a family report is to assist the judge with decisions about the care arrangement for your child/ren. It may also assist you to reach an agreement with the other party.

There are two types of reports:

  1. Family report made pursuant to Section 11F of the Family Law Act 1975 (“the Act”)

An order for a Section 11F report is usually made after the first hearing date. A meeting is generally arranged with a family consultant at court. The report is frequently utilised by the judge when the parties cannot reach an agreement as to interim parenting arrangements and their positions are too far apart. These reports are succinct and deals with pressing interim issues before the court, including interim or short-term parenting arrangements, but also potentially risks to the child/ren as a result of family violence and drug use.

2.   Family report made pursuant to Section 62G of the Act

This report can be prepared either by a family consultant at court or a privately appointed family consultant. A Section 62G Family Report tend to be more detailed than a Section 11F report. This report will provide a more comprehensive insight into the relationship between the child/ren and the parties and addresses long-term arrangement issues.

What to expect at the interview?

After an order for a report is made, a number of interviews will take place over one day or a few days. These consultations may take place at court or at the family consultant’s private practice. Some family consultants may even request to attend each party’s home to observe the child/ren in a more relaxed environment.

The family consultant will notify the parties as to the appropriate interview process and may at times request other family members to be interviewed (for example, partners, grandparents or step-children).

Depending on your child/ren’s age, maturity and willingness to participate, your child/ren will usually be given opportunity to be seen separately from adults. Your child/ren will also be given the opportunity to express their views, but they are not expected and will not be pressured to do so.

Things to consider and prepare before your interview and observation session

The family consultant will need to consider issues such as:

  1. The history of your relationship;
  2. Past and present parenting arrangement;
  3. The nature of the child/ren’s relationship with the parents;
  4. Child/ren’s wishes (if any), and the weight which should be given to those views (eg. consideration will be given to their maturity and level of understanding);
  5. The ability each parent is able to encourage and foster the child/ren’s relationship with the other parent;
  6. Each parent’s ability to have insight into the child/ren’s needs;
  7. Any risk factors to the child/ren.

It will be helpful, before your appointment, to speak with your solicitor, and read through all the affidavit material that have been filed in the proceedings, this will assist you to jog your memory and clearly detail the major issues in dispute.

It is important for you to consider your proposal and position from the perspective of your child/ren and the benefit and impact any proposal will have on your child/ren.

Keep in mind that everything you say and do before the family consultant can be reported to the court. Your meeting with the family consultant is not confidential. All parties’ actions will be observed from the moment they arrive until the moment they leave. This includes how the parties interact with each other at the waiting area.

What to tell your children before the interview

It is recommended that you reassure your child/ren not to worry about what they say to the family consultant, and to emphasise to them that they need to tell the truth. You can tell the child/ren that the family consultant is there to help the parents to work out their arrangements for the child/ren.

The Family Court of Australia website has useful brochures and videos to assist parents to prepare your child/ren for the interview. There are information brochures for children aged 5-8 years and 9-12 years.

The resource above will assist you to provide your child/ren information in a neutral and age appropriate manner. It will avoid use of language that may later be construed as you trying to influence the child/ren in any way.