What is a Family Report?
A Family Report is ordered by a registrar or judge under section 62G of The Family Law Act 1975.
The report is prepared by a family consultant- often a psychologist and/or a social worker who specialises in child and family issues following separation and divorce.
Their role is to help resolve disputes, assist and advise the Courts and give evidence about individual cases. All reports undertaken by consultants are organised by the Court Children’s Service.
Disagreeing with a family report can be complex and confusing for those who are unfamiliar with it. Justice Family Lawyers have experience in disagreeing with a family report, however, we suggest the following key points to anyone considering contesting a family report:
- Understanding the purpose of a family report
- Ways to dispute the family report
- Supplying supporting evidence and pursuing legal action
Understanding the Purpose of a Family Report
The report itself is an independent family assessment that assists families and the Court in making decisions about the children, the reports are often ordered when nearing the final stages of a hearing.
During the preparation of a report, the family consultant will take the experiences and development of the child and/or children into consideration, alongside familial circumstances or any other issues relevant to the case.
They will then make recommendations for the best arrangements for the future care, welfare and developmental needs of the child.
Once a report is ordered a letter will be issued advising a time and location for the parents and children to meet with the family consultant. If these appointments are not attended the report will be delayed, and thus there may be an additional cost and delay for the rest of the duration of the case.
Most consultants will conduct various interviews in one day or over a few days and will have individual interviews with both parties.
On occasion, they might also interview significant people in the child’s life such as adult siblings, step or half-siblings, partners, and grandparents.
Children are spoken to separately from any adults (except for pressing circumstances) and will be given an opportunity to express their views and wishes privately.
After these meetings, the report will be prepared and the family consultant will consider the following:
- What issues are in dispute
- The present parenting arrangements
- The past parenting arrangements
- The capacity of each parent
- The child’s relationship with significant people, i.e. grandparents
- The wishes and views of the child
- Any possible risk to the child
Once the report is completed, the consultant provides it to the ordering judge who will then formally release the report prior to the final hearing. It’s not uncommon for matters to then be settled based on the contents of the report, and if you are able to reach an agreement and submit signed consent orders you may not have to return to Court.
A family report should provide the court with the following:
- Family structure and dynamics
- Unbiased opinion of all parties involved
- Recommendations regarding parental responsibility
Understandably, parties may disagree with the content or even the outcome of the report. In this case, they must know how to dispute and oppose the report.
Disagreeing with a Family Report: How to Do It
During the aforementioned family report conferences, parties may disagree with the content or even the outcome of the report.
In this case, they must know how to dispute and oppose the report. It’s important to know that The Family Report is only one source of evidence used by the Court to make a decision, and the Court is not bound by any recommendations made in the report.
Though family consultants are very experienced, their reports might not be accurate or reflect your family’s situation.
Any inaccuracies must be identified and disputed.
You can do this by writing to the family consultant and request an addendum to the report with particular follow-up questions.
Another strategy would be to call the family consultant as a witness to the final hearing.
The family consultant can then be cross-examined by your barrister and asked questions about the contents of the report and their assessment of the family.
Justice Family Lawyers have helped many clients over the years with disputing family reports. Our experienced solicitors have helped resolve family disputes and we know our clients’ interests should take priority.
Supplying Supporting Evidence when disagreeing with a family report
Though you can engage a family lawyer to help dispute the report, the court will ultimately make its own decision.
Therefore, it is important for you to provide the court with relevant evidence.
This can either be in the form of witness statements, medical records or other relevant documents.
At Justice Family Lawyers, our team of family lawyers understand how confusing and complex legal matters can be. We can provide comprehensive legal advice and ensure your legal rights are protected. Contact us today to discuss your situation and dispute a family report in Australia.
Principal of Justice Family Lawyers, Hayder specialises in complex parenting and property family law matters. He is based in Sydney and holds a Bachelor of Law and Bachelor of Communications from UTS.