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Court based Reports – the “Child Impact Report”

During the progression of a family law case, it is not uncommon for the Court to Order the preparation of various Reports. Given family law proceedings are civil in nature (party vs. party) and adversarial, the Court rarely has any independent evidence at the start of a case to determine which Orders will best advance the children’s best interests. As a result, the Court will order these Reports to marshal evidence that is independent of the parties’ evidence (Affidavit material), to be better informed of the dynamics of the case, be they risk factors (i.e. drug usage, family violence), and/or the children’s unique experiences/views.

One of these is called a Child Impact Report, which is often ordered at the early stage of the proceedings.

This post will explore: –

  1. What a Child Impact Report is.
  2. How the Report is prepared.
  3. How a Child Impact Report can affect your case.

What is a Child Impact Report?

Child Impact Report is a report ordered by a Registrar or Judge which seeks to provide insight to the Court on issues relevant to the case, including but not limited to risk factors and insight into the children’s perspective/views (if appropriate having regard to their age/maturity). Once made available, the Child Impact Report is circulated to all parties to the case, including the Independent Children’s Lawyer, and cannot be copied or distributed to anyone else.

The Child Impact Report can provide insight on any of the following areas: –

  1. The children’s views.
  2. The children’s reported experiences in the context of the parenting dispute between the parents.
  3. Any risk factors identified (i.e. drug usage, family violence, lack of parental capacity).

The Child Impact Report can then be used as evidence in the proceedings to assist the Court in determining which parenting Orders will best forward the children’s best interests.

How is the Child Impact Report prepared?

A Court-appointed Child Expert (a qualified psychologist or social worker) will meet with both the parents and the children. These days, interviews with parents are commonly conducted by Microsoft Teams (virtually), while children are required to attend the Court for face-to-face interviews.

In addition to the content gained from the interviews, the Report Writer will also consider any material filed in the case, including Affidavit evidence from the parties.

The Report writer will then prepared the Child Impact Report after having considered the contents of the interviews and the evidence filed by the parties.

How can a Child Impact Report affect your case?

Given a Child Impact Report is usually ordered at an early stage of the proceedings, it is commonly used in: –

  1. an Interim Hearing – the Report is likely to be tendered as evidence in the Interim Hearing and the parties will use the Report to argue which Orders to make.
  2. a Dispute Resolution Conference – the Report can be used as the basis for negotiations in the context of a Dispute Resolution Conference (mediation).
  3. Negotiations between parties – the parties may wish to use the Child Impact Report as the basis for their private negotiations, and potentially arrived at a settled outcome after considering the contents of the Report.

The Child Impact Report can be used by your solicitor to support your case and discredit the allegations put forward by the other party in their filed evidence. However, the Court is not bound to the contents of the Report and the Court can still decide the weight that it should give to the contents of the Report.

If you need further information on Child Impact Reports, please follow the link here which will take you to a FAQ prepared by the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia website.

If you need further advice about this or any other family law related issue, feel free to contact me for assistance by email at hello@fuenteslegal.com.au or 0406 111 992 for a no-obligation discussion.

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