When parenting matters are in dispute in Court proceedings an Order will often be made for the parties and children to attend upon an experienced psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker for the purpose of obtaining a family report.
The purpose of a family report is to provide an independent assessment of the issues in the case and also to help the Judge hearing the matter to make decisions about arrangements for the children. It may also help the parties reach an agreement without the need for further litigation.
Prior to preparing a family report, the report writer will be provided with all the parties’ relevant court documents including Affidavits, Court Orders and in many cases, Subpoena material.
The report writer will then meet with the parties, children and in some cases associated third parties such as step-parents and grandparents who are considered important adults in the children’s lives.
A family report will generally set out the background of the parties’ relationship, the parties’ circumstances prior to and following separation, a record of the report writer’s observations of the parties and children during their interviews and finally, a number of recommendations regarding parenting arrangements that the family report writer considers to be in the best interests of the children in the circumstances.
The family report will then be admitted into evidence for consideration by the Judge in the proceedings. As such the family report is therefore a form of evidence that will be considered in addition to all other evidence filed by the parties.
Judges will often place significant emphasis on the opinion and recommendations of the family report writer due to their expert and impartial position in the proceedings.
If you are considering issuing court proceedings or responding to court proceedings in relation to parenting matters it is important to discuss the role of a family report with a family lawyer.