The most important matter to resolve in any separation that involves children is the future living arrangements of the children. These matters are often highly emotional and sensitive to both parties in the process of separating and the children can suffer during a prolonged custody dispute. One of the mechanisms the Family Court uses in such disputes as a guide to coming to a decision is to require a Family Report. Often, the use of these reports can create a sense of anxiety in parents who are subject to them.
In Freeman Family Law’s latest Family Law 101, we take a look at Family Reports and help those who may be subject to them better understand what they are and how they are applied in a case.
A Family Report is a report produced by an independent expert who usually is a qualified psychologist who specialises in this area. The report will usually provide the presiding Judge with a recommended living arrangement for the children and a lengthy summation of how the Report Writer arrived at their conclusion.
In the process of preparing the report, the expert Report Writer will:
1. Read all the materials of both parties including:
– Medical evidence relating to the parties and/or the child or children
– Other court materials
2. Meet with each party in a range of scenarios including:
– Meeting both parties together where appropriate
– Meeting one partner with the child or children
– Meeting the other partner with the child or children
– Depending on the age of the child or children alone
Of course, sometimes meeting both parties together is not always possible or appropriate, particularly in circumstances where there are allegations of family violence and/or there is an Intervention Order involved. Based on the written material, observations of the children with each party, and on discussions with the parties and the children the expert Report Writer will formulate opinions as to the dynamics of the family and to the recommendations as to the living arrangements that would be in the best interests of the child or children.
A Family Report is usually required when the parties cannot agree on the living arrangements for the child or children either by themselves or with the assistance of their lawyers. Family mediation is a mandated first step before any matter involving children can go to court and as such these matters can potentially be mediated without the need for a Family Report. If the parties are unable to resolve matters through mediation a certificate will be granted allowing the parties to proceed to court.
Where mediation is not an option because of allegations of violence, distance or urgency the parties may be able to proceed to court without participating in mediation. A Family Report will usually be ordered by the Court once it becomes apparent that no resolution can be achieved by the parties. This can be done at various stages of the court process, such as at an Interim Hearing or before a final Trial.
Once a Family Report is completed, the expert Report Writer will submit their recommendations to the Court. The report will contain a proposed living arrangement for the children and detail with respect to the evidence considered. The Judge will consider the report when making a final judgment but does not need to agree with the recommendation provided in the Family Report. Although the Family Report in any matter will be relevant and persuasive, the final decision is always up to the Judge.
If you are in the midst of a separation or divorce or are considering separating or divorce and children are involved, you should consider getting legal advice. Whilst a lawyer cannot be present in any Family Report interviews, an experienced family lawyer with a sound understanding of the law and a proven record in mediation will be invaluable in helping you understand the process and guide you through your matter from start to finish.
Freeman Family Law has exceptional experience when it comes to helping its clients in separation matters involving children, with a clear emphasis on the wellbeing of all children involved. If you would like to learn more about Freeman Family Law’s divorce and separation services, please contact us today.
Freeman Family Law has been assisting clients for over 30 years on matters involving divorce or separation, complex financial and property issues, as well as advice on parenting and wills & estates. Book an appointment with an Accredited Family Law Specialist online or at one of our offices in Yarraville, South Melbourne, Caroline Springs, Essendon or Mornington.Enquire Now
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