What happens during a family report interview?

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How can we help?

Has the prospect of attending a family report interview sent you into a full-scale panic? Our first piece of advice – however difficult it might seem – 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. If you have any further questions, you can also contact one of our experienced family lawyers.

woman preparing a family report


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’s future needs for care. The family assessment report will focus on the best interests of the children.

What goes into the family report?

The following will be a part of the preparation of the family report:

  • An interview with you
  • An interview with the other parent (apart from you)
  • Conversations with other significant family members such as close grandparents or step-siblings

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 family 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 also 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 report 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. They may also be interviewed 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 what you think would be best. The family report writer may also gather information about the parenting disputes, 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.

How to prepare for family court report: the 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 personal lawyer may be present during the interview, however.

What if you disagree with the recommendations of the family report?

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 stressful 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 family and child support lawyers at Owen Hodge Lawyers are here to help. Call us to schedule a consultation at 1800 770 780.

Please don’t hesitate to contact our team if you also have any additional questions about family reports, family court or family law proceedings.

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