In parenting disputes at Court, it often seems that the evidence of the parties does not go beyond the “he said/she said” stage. However independent evidence can be requested, including a report on the impact of the dispute on children, to assist the Court in deciding about your parenting matter.
What is a Child Impact Report?
If you have a matter in Court, the Court may seek the assistance of a Court Child Expert to prepare a Child Impact Report in the first instance to address matters on an interim basis.
A Child Impact Report is usually a short report, and it will explore several issues depending on the situation and circumstances of your family.
Child Impact Reports are generally ordered at a relatively early stage of court proceedings.
The Report may assist you and the Court in making a decision as to the parenting arrangements on an interim basis. If the case requires a final hearing in future, the Court will order a more comprehensive report. For information about what reports are used to assist the Court at final hearings, please read our article Family Reports.
Who is a Court Child Expert?
A Court Child Expert is a qualified psychologist or social worker who is experienced in dealing with child and family issues after separation.
What is the process involved with a Child Impact Report?
The Court Child Expert will have access to all of the documents filed by the parties in the proceedings.
The assessment for a report is conducted in two parts:
- Part 1 – this is a parent meeting where the Child Court Expert meets with the parents separately to discuss the matter and any risk allegations.
- Part 2 – depending on the ages and needs of your child, the Child Court Expert may also meet with the child (or children) and give them an opportunity to talk about their feelings and experiences. Sometimes the Child Court Expert will observe the parents with the child (or children).
The process on the part of the psychologist is forensic, not therapeutic. That is, the expert will gather information including from his/her observations of the parties and children during the interviews.
After the assessment takes place, the Child Court Expert will prepare the Child Impact Report which will then be distributed to the parties.
At the moment, most of these meetings are conducted online via Microsoft Teams but the Court will give you directions about how the meetings are to take place and what date(s) and time(s) you need to attend.
What will the Child Impact Report include?
The Report will explore issues that are relevant to the matter at hand and the relevant issues, for example:
- Any alleged risk issues;
- The relationship that the child has with each of the parents
- The relationship that the child has with any other significant people, such as grandparents or other carers; and
- The age of the child and any developmental issues.
The Report provides the Court with some insight into the effect of separation on the child (or children) and any issues at hand.
Any information you provide to the Court Child Expert is not confidential.
A Child Impact Report often includes some recommendations about the next steps in a matter, for example, any change in care arrangements, the parents engaging in parenting courses, the children obtaining assistance or any other matters to deal with alleged risk concerns.
A Child Impact Report is only one source of evidence for the Court to consider when making a decision. If there are matters in the Report that you do not agree with, you should seek legal advice about the best way to deal with those issues.
How do I get a Child Impact Report?
A Child Impact Report is ordered by the Court and are usually ordered at an early stage in the proceedings, or sometimes later in the proceedings depending on the matter and the issues at hand.
If there is agreement between the parties, there may be consent for the preparation of a Child Impact Report, or otherwise, the Court may make an Order for the Report on an application of a party.
Alternatively, parties may engage someone privately (and outside of the Court) to prepare a similar report. There would be costs involved with a private report.
Where can I find more information?
The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia website has a number of fact sheets and information available.
How can we help?
If you or a loved one would like legal advice in relation to a family law matter or a Child Impact Report, please contact our Family Law Team to arrange an appointment with one of our experienced family law solicitors.
For more information, contact Mariah Tennant-Breust
This article provides current information as at the time of publishing. It does not constitute legal advice and Elringtons is not responsible for any reliance upon its contents. It is important that you seek legal advice to your unique situation.