Family Court of Western Australia

Family Reports

During a parenting case, the Judicial Officer can request a family report.

A family report is a document written by a Family Consultant. It provides an independent assessment of the issues in the case and can help the Judicial Officer hearing the case to make decisions about arrangements for the children. It may also help the parties reach an agreement.

Unlike the case assessment conference, the children and other significant people can be interviewed. The scope of the report will be determined by the judicial officer, who will focus on the best interests of the child.

In preparing the report, the Family Consultant considers the family’s circumstances, explores issues relevant to the case and recommends arrangements that will best meet the children’s future care, welfare and developmental needs. The best interests of the children are the main focus of the report.

The family report process includes:

  • interviews with the parties
  • interviews with the children, where possible and appropriate, then
  • the Family Consultant preparing a report for the Court.

In all cases the report is provided to the Court and if an agreement is reached, the agreement forms part of the family report

A family report will usually be prepared after there has been a case assessment conference where the Family Consultant has helped the parties define the issues in dispute and discussed the different options for resolving their dispute.

The interview with the Family Consultant is not confidential, and any information can be reported to the Court.

The interview process

You, or your lawyer (if you have one), will receive a letter or phone call from the Court advising you of the appointment time. The interviews will be conducted at the Court.

Generally, the Family Consultant will arrange to see all parties to the application and the children, unless the terms of the report provide otherwise.

The Family Consultant will conduct a series of interviews. They will have individual interviews with you and the other party. You will get an opportunity to speak about issues that are important to you and to ask the Family Consultant any questions that you may have.

They may also interview other significant people, such as adult siblings, step or half siblings, partners or grandparents.

Children will be seen separately from any adults (except in special circumstances). Children will be given an opportunity to express their views and wishes, but no child will be expected to do so.

Generally the family consultant will gather information about:

  • the issues in dispute
  • past and present parenting arrangements
  • the parenting capacity of each party
  • your children’s relationships with significant people
  • your children’s wishes and views, and
  • any risks to the children.

How can I prepare for the interview?

There is no particular schedule of interview questions commonly asked by Family Consultants. What might be asked will be different in each case, depending on your family situation and the issues before the Court.

The interview often results in a dialogue between you and the Family Consultant, as you discuss your particular situation.

Generally, the Family Consultant will want to get a sense of your views about parenting and the relationship you have with your children and your former partner.

These points might assist in preparing for your interview:

  • put yourself in your children’s position and think about how you think the children want the situation to be, and
  • try to remember that your children have a right to know and be cared for by both parents and will usually want to maintain the best possible relationship with both.

How can I prepare the children for the process?

Children will know that there is a dispute between their parents. Explain to the children that they are coming to see a Family Consultant because the Court is interested in their views and wants to learn more about them as individuals.

It is not helpful or accurate to allow children to believe that they will be given ‘a choice’ regarding the amount of time they spend with each parent. This will be determined by the Court or by agreement between the parents.

It is useful to give your children permission to speak freely, especially if such permission is able to come from both parents. Sometimes children need to be assured that no matter what they tell the Family Consultant, you will consider their opinions and accept their input.

It is important that you do not unduly question children after their interview regardless of your level of curiosity. It is best to give children an invitation to discuss how the process felt for them.

The Family Court of Australia has age-appropriate resources for children aged 5 to 8, and for children aged 8 to 12 to help them understand the process.

What happens once the Family Consultant has written the report

When the report is completed, it is forwarded to the Judicial Officer who ordered it.  

If you are legally represented, the Judicial Officer will arrange for a copy to be sent to your solicitor who will then contact you.  If you do not have a lawyer, a copy will be forwarded directly to you.

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 for this to happen. This is the case even for people who may have been interviewed, but are not a party to the court case.

It is important you don’t discuss the report with your children.

What if I don’t agree with the Family Report?

The Family Report is only one source of evidence that the Court considers in making its decision. The Court is not bound by any recommendations made in the report. As with any evidence, the appropriate place to challenge the report is the Court itself.

You should seek legal advice if you have concerns about the report.

Next steps

You or your lawyer (if you have one) will receive a copy of the Family Report prior to your next hearing. It is possible (and not uncommon) for matters to settle based on what is contained in the Family Report.

If you are able to reach an agreement and submit signed consent orders to the Court you may not have to come back to Court. The Court encourages this and will provide you with assistance if you need it. Please inform the Court immediately (if you have a lawyer they can do this for you) if you reach an agreement outside of the Court.

Last updated: 16-Apr-2018

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