Has the prospect of attending a family report interview sent you into a full-scale panic? Our first piece of advice– however counterintuitive – is don’t let it. To help you out it may be beneficial to understand what a family report interview is intended to accomplish, what you should and should not do, and what resources and support are available.

Why have you been called to a family report interview?

The underlying situation is likely that you and your partner have been unable to agree about arrangements for childcare and support.  Rather than acting arbitrarily, the Family Court of Australia or Federal Circuit Court of Australia has asked for an independent assessment of relevant issues and a recommendation about arrangements that will best meet the children future needs for care. The report will focus on the best interests of the children.

Your interview and an interview of their other parent, an interview with them apart from you, and similar conversations with other significant family members such as close grandparents or step-siblings will be part of the preparation of that report.

The interviews will be conducted by a trained family consultant, who is a qualified social worker or psychologist with skill and experience in working with families.

The report must be formally released by the Court before parties can receive it. It cannot be shown to anyone other than the parties to the court case and their lawyers. It cannot be shown to other people, such as other family members, without the Court giving permission. This is true even for people who may have been interviewed but are not a party to the case.

What should you expect on the day?

Interviews may be conducted in the Child Dispute Services Section of the Court or at other premises. The process will likely take about two hours or more, so if you are bringing the children, you should probably bring along snacks and age-appropriate diversions. Waiting is torture.

Depending on their age, the children will likely be interviewed separately from you and perhaps separately from one another in a non-threatening environment, such as a playroom for young children.

You will likely be asked about your relationship with the children and others and what you think would be best. The family consultant may also gather information about the issues in dispute, past and present parenting arrangements, the parenting capacity of each party and any risks to the children.

This is likely what other interviewees will be asked as well.

Do’s and Don’ts

  • First and foremost, don’t fail to show up. If there is a serious problem, you may be able to reschedule;
  • Don’t coach your children. Family consultants can spot this. You may, however, reassure them that this is not something to be afraid of;
  • Dress as if you were going to church or some other reasonably formal occasion;
  • Remember that the family consultant is not your friend, therapist or lawyer. The information you provide is not confidential;
  • The consultant is also not an adversary. They are simply there to help the Court come to a reasonably good arrangement for your children. Some families choose to hire a private professional to undertake a family assessment and provide the Court with a report. This, of course, sets up a slightly different relationship. Courts may choose whether or not to admit these reports as evidence;
  • If you have provided written affidavits in your case, it would be a very good idea to refresh your memory about what you have already said by reviewing them;
  • If you have any concerns about your safety, call the National Enquiry Centre before your appointment, so that provisions can be made to guarantee your safety. By law, people must inform a court if there is an existing or pending family violence order involving themselves or their children.

Can you bring a friend?

Yes, you may bring a friend for support while you wait. Neither your friend nor your attorney may be present during the interview, however.

What if you disagree with the recommendations?

The Family Report is only one source of evidence that the Court considers in making its decision. The appropriate place to challenge the report is in the Court itself.

This is likely a trying personal situation. Rest assured that you and your family will get through this. If you are facing a family report interview or other issues arising from a child care and support dispute, the attorneys at Owen Hodge Lawyers are here to help. Call us to schedule a consultation at 1800 770 780.