The Stress Of Preparing For A Family Report
It is inevitable that if parents who institute proceedings in the family court involving their children, will if the parenting issues relating to the children are not resolved, be required to attend a conference and consult with initially a family consultant attached to the court,
and if the matter proceeds further in the court process with a family report writer.
Family reports by a family consultant and a family report writer, after the required consultation, will be provided to the Judge hearing the matter. Recommendations will be made in the reports on the future parenting of the children.
The Judge is not required to accept such recommendations in their entirety. However, great weight will be placed on the recommendation by the Judge.
Such recommendations could deal with:
- the parents with whom the children reside;
- what time, if any, will the children spend with each parent;
- the parents attending on suitable parenting courses;
- the emotional and psychological issues affecting the parents and children;
- the attitude of each parent to provide suitable parenting of the children;
- the attitudes of the parents in their dealings with each other;
- the ability of the parents to effectively communicate with each other, especially in relation to matters concerning their children.
The report writers can, if the children are age-appropriate and in most cases do, interview each child in the presence of each parent or both parents. The interviewing writer will be observing the interaction between the parents and the children.
It will be of assistance to the report writers if the parents and children are properly informed of the process and how best to present themselves in the interviews with the report writer.
Proper preparation of the children for the purpose of the interviews:
- Provide an overview of the process to the children and inform the children of the
reasons why they will be meeting with the report writer.
- Don’t overexplain the process.
- Provide an overview of the process in age-appropriate terms to the children.
- Explain that the person they are meeting will be talking about their family, the children’s interests, what they enjoy and their activities amongst other matters.
- Keep the information provided to the children simple. Don’t over exaggerate the purpose of the interview, and importantly, don’t:
a. create anxiety for the children;
b. tell the children what to say to the report writer – i.e. don’t school the children on matters they should raise with the report writer.
The report writer has the ability to seek the information necessary in the most appropriate manner.
The day of the interview
The report writers are skilled in dealing with the children, the parents in relation to their family issues. They will in most cases explain:
- The process of the interviews and their purpose. The children will most likely be with a parent at this time and then later with the other parent. The same information will be provided in both cases.
- The purpose of the interviews. The information provided will be given to the Judge who is to hear the matter.
- The report writer will, most likely, explain that it is his/her role to assist the Judge when making his/her decisions in regard to the children and their families so that the information provided will assist the Judge to make the best decisions for them.
- Importantly, the report writer will inform the children and their parents that whatever they tell the report writer will be confidential and no one else will be advised of what they say apart from the Judge and legal representatives.
- The report writers have the skill to deal with signs of anxiety with the children and/or their parents.
- If the report writers have serious concerns for the safety of the children, they are required to notify child safety, or in some cases, will not provide their report to the parents or anyone else until it is filed with the court and viewed by the Judge so that the Judge can deal with any safety concerns appropriately.
- The report writers are skilled and qualified to conduct these interviews. Don’t anticipate what will occur. Be guided by the report writers in this process.
a. don’t school the children;
b. don’t cause anxiety for the children.