Family Reports in Family Law Proceedings
Alexandra Brand, Associate Solicitor – BA (criminology), DipMus (Practical), LLM (JD), GradDipLegPrac
Perhaps you have heard this term before, perhaps you yourself have been told you are required to partake in a family report session. In this blog we are going to discuss what a Family Report is and what role they play in Family Law Proceedings.
The family reporting rules are covered by Section 11F and Section 62G of the Family Law Act 1975 (FLA).
To put it plainly, in a family law case both of these Sections of the FLA allow the judge to order the parties and the children to attend an appointment with a psychologist better known as a family consultant and discuss a way forward for the parenting arrangements. The family consultant will then provide recommendations to the judge, for example the time the children spend with each parent. The judge will make the ultimate decision whether to order those recommendations into court orders or not.
Let’s just take a step back for a moment.
When making a court order the judge is bound by a number of principles including –
- What is in the best interest of the child or children
- That the child/children should have a meaningful relationship with both parents
A family report or Section 11F interim report allows the family consultant to also explore these principles during their session.
What is a Family or Section 11F Report?
A family report or section 11F report provides for an independent assessment of the issues in the case and can assist the judge to make decisions regarding the arrangements for the children. Judges are not psychologists therefore they require assessment by way of an independent consultant/ psychologist to provide recommendations when making orders in a matter.
The Section 11F differs slightly to a Section 62G Report. A section 11F report deals with the care arrangements usually upon the first return date where the parties positions are so far apart and they cannot reach an agreement. There may also be allegations of drug usage or risk factors which the Court needs to explore through that process. Whereas, a Section 62G family report is more lengthy and usually deals with the future care arrangements of the child or children and is prepared leading up to a final hearing.
In preparing these reports, the family consultant must consider the family’s arrangements and how to best meet the future needs, welfare and development of the child or children.
The family consultant will conduct a series of interviews. They will have individual interviews with the mother and the father (or whoever the respective parties to the case are). They may also interview other significant people, such as adult siblings, step or half siblings, partners or grandparents
The child or children will be given an opportunity to express their views and wishes. The family consultant may also observe the interaction between the children and each parent (and other significant people) in separate observation sessions.
What if you agree with the recommendations of the report? What if you don’t agree with the recommendations in the report? How does this report differ from a private assessment? All of these questions and many more can be answered by one of our experienced family lawyers at Hartleys Lawyers.
If you have begun this process or perhaps you want to understand a bit more about this process, make an appointment for a free initial consultation with one of your professional and friendly family solicitors at Hartleys Lawyers, and together we can discuss how we can serve you best.