Whilst it is true that over 80% of all divorces and disputes that fall under the umbrella of family law are settled amicably, often with the help of family lawyers, it is also the case that some result in an acrimonious court battle. This is especially true when the dispute relates to the couple’s children and matters such as who they will live with and visitation.
Sadly too many parents think that by using the children as a kind of legal bargaining chip they will be able to make a stronger case. Hopefully, they will soon realise that the Family Court is not a casino, and it will ensure that children’s best interests are served as a priority over any demands either parent may make.
To ensure that the principle of ensuring that the child’s best interests are served as per the Family Law Act of 1975, the court will want to have as much information as possible relating to all the matters which it has to decide upon. In order to have this information in a format that encompasses everything which is relevant, it may order that a family report be produced.
It is often the case that much of the evidence presented to a court will be telling a side of the story from each of the parents’ point of view, but that might not necessarily provide many of the specifics that any judge would want to know regarding the child’s welfare. This is another reason why a judge will order a family report so they can have an unbiased description of the situation.
The person nominated to produce the family report is called a family consultant. This will be someone of professional standing whose occupation makes them an appropriate person to assess and report on the matters that the court needs. For example, it could be a social worker or a child psychologist who, given their profession, will obviously have a lot of experience in dealing with matters that relate to children and families.
The cost of producing the family report can be considerable given the amount of work which is required and the fact that it is being done by a professional whose fee is not going to be paltry. However, neither parent is required to pay in full, or in part, for the report being produced as normally, it is the court requesting a family report that bears the cost.
The sorts of information that a family consultant will gather for a family report will be based on the dispute that is at hand. It follows that looking into matters that might involve family violence will be different from those where two parents simply cannot agree on who the child should live with, or the amount of visitation that is going to be in place.
The specifics within the family report are likely to include some of those below, and it will sourced in a number of ways, including one to one interviews.
The views of the child
The child’s relationship with their parents
What effects there may be on the child due to changes in circumstances
Any perceived risks for the child
The parents’ ability to provide for the child’s needs
How parent demonstrate their responsibilities towards the child
Parents willingness to ensure the child has a healthy relationship with their other parent
One the investigation is complete, the report will be submitted to the court who will then release it to the respective parties, however, it will not be made public.