In any divorce where the couple has children, there will a number of procedures and processes which require advice from their respective family lawyers. Thankfully, in many cases, with the help of their lawyers, couples are able to agree on all the aspects relating to their children after the divorce, including visitation and support.
Unfortunately, not every divorce ends amicably, and where there is disagreement with regards to the children, a family report is likely to be ordered by the court.
The court will determine that by doing so, the information produced in the report will help it to better consider what is in the children’s best interests when it comes to making significant decisions regarding them. It should be noted that the costs of a family report are met by the court, and not the couple who are getting divorced.
Producing a family report is the responsibility of a family consultant. This will be someone whom the court regards as having sufficient knowledge and experience to make the family report viable. Examples of people who might be designated as a family consultant include child psychologists and social workers.
Once the process has started it is likely that each parent and their lawyer will be contacted by the family consultant outlining a series of interviews along with the dates and the times that they are to take place. These interviews are normally conducted in court premises, albeit not the actual courtroom itself.
It is vitally important that all of these interviews are attended. If not, it will be reported to the court by the family consultant. Failing to attend can also lead to lengthy delays, and additional costs having to be paid.
If family violence has been a factor in the relationship and a parent has concerns about their safety or the safety of their children attending the interviews, they can inform the court who can take that into account with regards to interview timings and dates.
Some of the interviews may take place with both parents, a single parent and child together, each parent on their own, or the child on their own, without any parents present. The latter is designed so that the family consultant can hear the views of the child, without them feeling obliged to say what they think their parents want them to.
The family consultant will also monitor the interaction between the parents and the child and the child with other adults who may be asked to attend these observation sessions. Other evidence may be gathered by interviewing others such as grandparents, or adult siblings, if there are any.
Other information and views may be sought by the family consultant from the children’s schoolteachers, their doctors, and any other relevant professionals who might be able to add insights into the children and their relationship with each parent.
Additional documentation, data, and information can be obtained by the family consultant if they deem it necessary, and this can be subpoenaed if required.
Once the report is complete, it is submitted to the court, who will then allow copies to be sent to each parent, their respective lawyers, and the Independent Children’s Lawyer. Normally, no other person is allowed to see a children’s report.
The report will contain recommendations as to the welfare of the children and how the allocation of parental responsibility should be applied. Note, the family report is not the only evidence a court will consider, however, it plays a large role.