What is a Family Report?

A Family Report is often sought in the context of a parenting dispute when the question before the Court is commonly - who the children should live with, or how often the children should spend time with each parent or other significant adults. Where there are issues of complexity such as, family violence, allegations of child abuse or alienation, parent mental illness or substance abuse, re-location or rejection issues, it is likely that the Judge will appoint a Court Expert to assess these issues and thus order the preparation of a Family Report. The Judge or your Lawyer might ask the parents to personally organise and pay for a Family Report. Parents can also decide for themselves that they would to like to access this impartial, independent and professional advice to assist them to make decisions about their children outside of Lawyers and Court. 

If you need a report please contact Emma Rzoska to arrange an appointment.

A Family Report is designed to provide an objective analysis and comprehensive view of the family from a social science rather than legal viewpoint. The primary aim of a Family Report is to help resolve parenting disputes in a child focused way. A family report is primarily a family assessment used to highlight for the Court, the parents/parties, and legal representatives what parenting outcomes appear to be in the Best Interests of the Children or Child. A family report can also be a very helpful tool for families who are trying to resolve the parenting dispute outside of the Court room. A Family Report can significantly increase the chances of resolving the dispute sooner and therefore reduce the high costs associated with ongoing Court appearances. In most cases the Judge will place a lot of weight on the opinions of the Family Report Writer.

A 'Court Expert' can also be called a 'Family Consultant' or 'Family Report Writer'. Family Consultants are qualified and experienced social workers and psychologists with vested responsibility as ‘Court Experts’. Family Consultants are appointed under Regulation 7 of the Family Law Regulations and these professionals have recognised experience, skills and qualifications in their particular discipline including up to date knowledge of relevant research, approaches, the relevant body of law, and any related policies, rules and regulations. Not all Family Report Writers qualify for the label 'Family Consultant'.

How will the Family Report be completed?

Once an appointment is made for you to attend interviews with a Family Report Writer there is nothing specific you have to prepare. You may like to jot down some important points you do not want to forget to convey. The interviews usually take several hours in total. It is important to tell the Family Report Writer ahead of time if you have any concerns for your safety or your children's safety, or there are current Family Violence orders. A safety plan can be put into place. It is also helpful to tell the Family Report Writer about other family members who are routinely in the children's lives as they may be asked to attend appointments also. Household members and current partners (whether they live with you or not) are usually asked to attend. The Report Writer will ultimately decide who needs to be interviewed (and when and how).

Generally each adult and each child will be interviewed separately although in some cases family members may be interviewed together. Children do not have to speak to the Family Consultant if they don't want to. Emma Rzoska prides herself on making the situation as child focused and as comfortable as possible for children. Usually the Family Report Writer will also observe each parent with any other household members with the children whilst they interact. In some cases the Family Report Writer might want to complete these observations in the home environment. 

The Family Consultant will read any available documents that have been submitted to the Court. The Family Consultant might seek additional information from other professionals such as counsellors, teachers and day care providers. The Family Consultant may view subpoenaed information.

Please note that audio/visual recording of any family report process is not appropriate and is prohibited. 

What will the Family Report Writer ask?

Each adult will be asked about their life, the relationships in their life and their proposals for the children's future care. Questions might also be asked about parenting style, personality and behaviours of the children or adults and the typical adult interactions. The Family Consultant will also gather information about possible risk factors for the children. Each parent's hopes and concerns for the children will be discussed. There is no need to prepare for the interviews - just be yourself.

What happens if I disagree with the report?

1. You can ask questions of the Report Writer as long as both parents agree for the questions to be raised and as long as both parents/parties are included in any communication. Written communication via email is best so everybody involved is able to see the questions and the answers provided. It is not appropriate for a Report Writer to speak with any individual party alone once a Family Report is released. 2. You can request an updated report and review. 3. You are also able to ask the Family Consultant to appear at the trial to be 'cross-examined'. Typically a Family Consultant expects 14 days notice prior to the date of Court if you want them to be there. The Family Consultant may attend in person or by telephone. By putting questions to the Family Consultant you are able to query the Family Report, the assessment, the opinions and the recommendations, and also highlight for the Judge what aspects you agree with.