In a dispute involving children, a Family Consultant is often appointed. The Family Consultant is appointed by the Court to interview and observe relevant parties; prepare reports about their interviews and observations, and make recommendations about the most suitable future co-parenting regime. They provide an independent voice, helping Judges make decisions about arrangements for the child/ren. In the process, they may also help the parties reach an agreement.
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 child/ren’s future care, welfare, and developmental needs. The child’s best interests are always of paramount importance.
The report is confidential and cannot be shown to anyone other than parties to the Court proceedings and their legal representatives. It is an offence, to publish or disseminate to the public, or a section of the public, any part of proceedings under the Act that identifies a party, a witness, or certain other persons.
What is a Family Consultant?
Family Consultants are qualified social workers or psychologists, with skill and experience in working with children and families. They are appointed by the Court to help parents and Judges achieve the best outcomes for the children. Family Consultants are recognised as experts in relation to children’s matters.
How much does a Family Report cost?
A Family Report can occasionally be ordered and paid for by the Court, where the parties are under financial hardship, so there is no cost to either party. Alternatively, the Court may order that the parties equally pay for the costs of the report, which costs between $4,000-$5,000.
What happens after a Family Report is ordered?
One of our Gold Coast Family Lawyers will contact you advising you of your appointment times and in preparation of the interviews. Interviews may be conducted in the Child Dispute Services Section of the Court, or at the Family Consultant’s office.
What information will the Family Consultant need to prepare the Family Report?
The Family Consultant may contact teachers, doctors or other relevant professionals for more information about your child/ren. The Court may also direct that the Family Consultant has access to material that has been subpoenaed.
Generally, the Family Consultant will gather information about:
- the issues in dispute
- past and present parenting arrangements
- the parenting capacity of each party
- your child/ren’s relationships with significant people
- your child/ren’s wishes and views, and
- any risks to the child/ren.
Is the information provided to the Family Consultant confidential?
The information provided to the Family Consultant is confidential to the Court proceedings, but all information gathered by the Family Consultant is admissible in Court. The Family Consultant is required to include relevant information in the report and may also be required to give evidence in Court. So, others not involved in the Court proceedings will not know about the contents of the report, but all those involved in the proceedings will.
What if the recommendations of Family Report are unfavourable to me?
The Family Report is only one source of evidence that the Court considers in making its decision, but their views are very persuasive. The Court is not bound by any recommendations made in the report and you can challenge the contents of the Family Report, by cross-examining the report writer at a trial, although very few cases proceed to trial.