The Family Report and Expert Evidence in Proceedings
Expert evidence including family reports provide the Court with material from an independent viewpoint, which both assesses and highlights particular issues with each unique case. The most common form of expert evidence in family law proceedings is family reports, which are undertaken by psychologists to determine the children’s views, the party’s capacity regarding parental issues and any emotional or psychological effects of previous family violence or abuse.
The Family Report
The family report writing expert appointed typically has extensive professional knowledge both of the field relevant to the evidence, but also the background and history of the case before them. The expert’s role is to assist the Court by presenting evidence in an impartial manner to provide valuable information to assist the Judge in forming an opinion of the case. This is required pursuant to Rule 15.59 FLR, Division 15.2 FCCR.
If the Court makes findings of fact in relation to either family violence, child abuse, risk of family violence or abuse prior to the reporting process, the family report writer is provided with a copy of the Court’s findings and the report is to incorporate that information.
Evidence of Family Violence
When determining whether a family report writer or other expert evidence should be appointed, the Court may wish to satisfy itself that the expert has both the appropriate qualifications and experience to assess the circumstances of the case, but also measure the impact and effect of any family violence or abuse to any parties of the proceedings.
Importantly, when providing this evidence to the Court, the expert or family report writer must be aware of the allegations and whether the victim or affected parties residence, contact details or whereabouts are to remain unnamed during the process.
Relevant Considerations for the Court
When considering orders to conduct a family report or other expert report, the Court may consider the following relevant factors, and, direct the expert to:
- Address family violence issues, abuse or risk of violence or abuse to the parties;
- Make an assessment of any harm suffered to children if the orders are not made;
- Consider the benefits and the scope of these benefits to the child spending time with the persons against whom the allegations of violence have been made;
- Assess the physical, emotional and mental safety of the child during periods of time spent with the persons against whom violence is alleged;
- Determine the views of the child/ren in light of the allegations and whether the children have a preference as to who they live with; and
Where family violence or abuse has previously been established, to report on:
- The impact of said violence and abuse on the child and relevant parties;
- Whether the person acknowledges the violence has occurred;
- Whether the person takes responsibility for the violence or abuse;
- Whether the person accepts the violence or abuse was inappropriate;
- Whether the person has or is planning to participate in any program or course that address the factors which contributed towards the original instances of violence or abuse;
- Whether there is a need for the child or relevant party which has suffered violence or abuse to receive counseling or alternative means of treatment;
- Whether the person has expressed remorse or regret for the violence or abuse that affected another person;
- Whether the person understands the impact of the violence or abuse either in the past or present;
- Whether there is any indication that a person behaved violently or abusively and is seeking the spend time with the child of the relationship; and
- The relevant means that person has to sustain an arrangement with a child where the child feels safe.
Find out more on the Family Report writing process and speak with an expert family lawyer using our free initial consultation.