Things to be aware of in family reports and how your children will be involved.
If you are before the Court in a parenting matter, you may expect that the Court will make interim orders requiring the preparation of a family report. The report is prepared by a family report writer after he or she will have spoken with you and your former partner and quite likely your children also. Dependent upon the age of your children, the time that the report writer spends with your children may be more discussion or play based.
The report that the report writer prepares is filed in the Court and forms part of the evidence before the Court. The report will likely include some account of the interview held with each of you and your former partner and the children. Where children have expressed a view about how much time they wish to spend with each parent, you may expect that this will be included in the report. At the same time, the report writer is likely to include in the report some observations concerning the level of maturity of the children and the consequent weight to be given to their views. The more mature the child appears to be, the greater the weight you may expect will be given to their views.
The amount of time that the report writer spends interviewing a family varies but it is not unusual for the interviews with each of you and your former partner and children to extend collectively over approximately 4-6 hours for a family of four and sometimes longer. However, whether the collective interview period is some 4 hours or 8 hours, the opportunity that the report writer has to gain some insight into the dynamics of a family can sometimes be quite limited.
Report writers are typically very experienced and adept at concentrating the interviews on the areas in issue. Nonetheless, the views that they form are predicated on the information available to them. That information includes the evidence as disclosed by the affidavit material filed by both you, your former partner and any medical experts as well as information gleaned during the interview process.
Even if certain facts concerning your family are evident to you, unless those facts are borne out by independent evidence filed in your case, you risk the report writer considering that what you believe are facts are a matter of your opinion only.
A family report is one tool but an important tool available to the Court to assist in its determination regards what Orders should be made concerning your children. The Judge is not obliged to accept recommendations made by the Family Report Writer but those recommendations may be persuasive. If you are not satisfied with any recommendations made by a Report Writer, you may take issue with them before the Court but before doing so, you need to be sure that there are justifiable grounds for doing so.
For some people, it is not possible to reach agreement with their former partners concerning their children and a Court action becomes necessary. It is important to understand the role of the family report. It is also import to ensure that any allegations that you may have, whether concerning mental health or drug issues affecting your former partner or going to the competence or otherwise of your former partner to provide appropriate care for your children, are properly evidenced, including appropriate independent third party evidence.