In parenting matters, a report can be prepared by an ‘expert’ in relation to a child, a parent or the family. This may include the involvement of new partners, grandparents and others concerned with the care, welfare and development of a child. These reports are referred to as ‘expert reports’ or ‘family reports’ or ‘child impact reports’ or ‘medical reports’.
A report in relation to a child should be requested ‘jointly’ by the parents and the costs associated with the report are generally shared equally between the parents.
Medical and Other Letters and Reports
A report or medical document, such as a letter from a child’s counsellor, obtained by one parent, must be disclosed to the other parent. This is not an ‘expert’ report but may be useful in negotiations to identify a child’s needs, health concerns or any issues that they are having. For example, if your child has been diagnosed by their treating Doctor as having diabetes, a medical report from that medical professional will be helpful to understand your child’s routines and special medical needs.
If a report or document is disclosed to one parent and it has not been prepared pursuant to joint instructions from both parents, it is not an ‘expert’ report. It is subjective or a one-sided report. A good example of a one-sided report is where one parent takes a child to a psychologist without informing the other parent or involving them in the process.
If your children’s matter is before the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia, it is likely that the Court may order one or more reports to assist the Court in making a determination about what is in your child’s best interests. The reports generally ordered by the Court are:
- Child Impact Report
A Child Impact Report is a child focussed preliminary assessment report that is prepared by a Court Child Expert appointed by the Court Children’s Services. The purpose of the report is to address the views of the parents and the children in the early stages of a children’s matter and to assess the issues at hand any identify any risk issues. It is primarily prepared to support Interim Hearings and Dispute Resolution.
The Court Child Expert will interview each parent separately and they will interview the children if they are old enough. The Court Child Expert reviews the material that has been filed by both parents with the Court. They will then prepare a Child Impact Report which will be provided to the Court and issued to the parents.
- Specific Issues Report
A Specific Issues Report is a limited report which targets a particular issue. It offers a limited assessment and a short, concise report in relation to a particular issue which is stipulated in the Order of the Court.
The process of a Specific Issues Report is structured to obtain information relevant to the limited issues being assessment. As such, the process of the report will depend on the circumstances of each individual matter.
- Family Report
A Family Report is prepared under Section 62G of the Family Law Act 1975 and is prepared by a Family Consultant.
A Family Report is a comprehensive report which provides an evaluation of the Section 60CC factors, issues in dispute and proposals of both parents. It is essentially an independent family assessment that assists parents and the Court in making decisions about the children based on the children’s experiences, development, the family circumstances and any other relevant issues to the children’s matter.
If the Family Report is being organised by an Independent Children’s Lawyer, they will arrange all Court documents to be provided to the Family Consultant. Otherwise, the parties are to jointly agree on what material and information the Family Consultant is to be provided by providing them with a ‘joint letter of instruction’.
On the day of the interviews, the Family Consultant will meet with the parents individually, their partners and any other relevant people in the children’s lives, and meet with the children both individually and with each of their parents.
The Family Report writer will then prepare their report which will include recommendations about the progression of the children’s matter which will best meet the children’s future care, welfare and development needs.
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