Preparing for a Family Report Interview

If you are involved in a parenting dispute before the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (“the Court”), there is a good chance that the Court will make Orders for a family report (or a shorter ‘child impact report’) to be prepared in your matter. A family report is a written, independent assessment that assists both parties and the Court in making decisions on what arrangements will bring about the best outcomes for the children involved.

Although the prospect of attending the family report interview may seem daunting at first, it is important that parties remain calm, child-focused, and gain an understanding on what the report is intended to accomplish.

In order to reduce angst leading up to the family report interview, we recommend that parties familiarise themselves with what support and resources are available to them to assist in the preparation for the family report interview. This article seeks to explain the family report process, and what parties should and should not do when it comes to the family report interview.

What is a Family Report?

 A family report is a court-ordered assessment of what parenting arrangements will best meet a child’s future care, welfare and developmental needs.  Parties can also mutually agree to obtain a family report outside of the Court system to assist with negotiations or a private mediation.

In litigation, family reports are generally prepared prior to a Final Hearing in parenting matters. However, shorter ‘child impact reports’ may also be prepared earlier in your matter to provide the Court with independent evidence on any urgent concerns raised regarding interim parenting arrangements .

The reports are a tool used by the Court to determine what future care arrangements are in the best interests of the children, in circumstances where parties cannot reach an agreement between themselves. The report may include recommendations on the following:

  • Allocation of Parental responsibility;
  • Who the children should live with and spend time with;
  • How to mitigate any safety concerns for the children; and
  • Any support services or interventions that may assist the parties and/or the children moving forward (such as therapeutic counselling).

Family reports are prepared by Family Consultants, who are experienced psychologists or social workers and specialise in child and family issues following separation and divorce.

In order to prepare the family report or child impact report, the Family Consultant will hold a series of interviews with each party involved, the children, and other significant adults in the children’s lives. These interviews generally take place in one day, but may also occur over a few days in limited circumstances.

 Preparing for the Interview

 It is important that parties adequately prepare for the family report interview process.  During the interviews, the Family Consultant will gather information on, and consider the following issues:

  • The nature of the children’s relationship with each party;
  • The parenting capacity of each party;
  • The issues in dispute;
  • Past and present parenting arrangements;
  • The wishes and views of the children if age-appropriate;
  • Any alleged risks to the children;
  • The attitudes of the parties in their dealings and communications with each other;
  • The children’s relationship with any other significant people in their life; and
  • Both parties’ insight into the needs of the children.

Family Consultants will usually have access to and review all court documents filed prior to the interview, as well as any other relevant material such as psychiatric assessments and subpoenaed records.

In light of the this, it would be prudent to speak with your lawyer (if legally represented) to prepare for the family report interview, and also review all Affidavit material filed on your behalf during the proceedings.  This will assist you to form an understanding of the proposals you have made, and refresh your memory on the evidence you have already provided and what issues remain in dispute.

During the family report interview process, the Family Consultant will meet with the children separately, and may also wish to observe the children’s interactions with both parties during separate observation sessions.  We recommend that parties tread carefully when preparing their children for this meeting, as it is where the Family Consultant will gather information on the children’s experience and their views and wishes.

There are useful brochures published on the Court’s website which may assist you to explain to the children the purpose of their attendance on the Family Consultant.

It is important that you do not coach your children when preparing them for the meeting, as the Family Consultant will generally be able to tell when a child has been coached to give them particular responses.  Further, there are often Interim Orders in place which will prevent you from discussing the proceedings and issues in dispute with the children or in the presence of the children.

To prepare your children for the meeting, we suggest explaining that they will be meeting with someone who would like to hear about their views and experiences, and that they will not be made to talk about anything they don’t want to.  Please note that the Family Consultant will not force your children to discuss anything they do not wish to discuss in the meeting, but will give them the opportunity to express their thoughts in an age-appropriate manner.

 Attending the Interview

Family report interviews normally take place in meeting rooms at the Court.  However, if a private practitioner is preparing the family report, the interviews may take place in their consulting rooms instead. As a result of the Covid-19 Pandemic, interviews are currently largely conducted over the telephone or other electronic means.

The interviews may take all day, so it is important that you bring snacks, drinks and age-appropriate toys for your children to keep them entertained.  We also recommended that you consider your appearance and presentation on the day of the interview, as it is to important present well to the Family Consultant and not appear dishevelled or disorganised.

As the Family Consultant will be gathering information in order to make an assessment on who the children will live with and spend time with, it is important that you be yourself and be honest.  You should voice your concerns and proposals in a clear, calm and child-focused manner, and also be respectful of the other party.

Family Consultants do not respond well to parties:

  • Discussing their rights and what is fair to them;
  • Minimising purported family violence;
  • Being unnecessarily negative about the other party;
  • Bringing up property matters unnecessarily;
  • Belittling the court process;
  • Being in denial about the permanence of the separation; and
  • “My lawyer said…” comments.

If somebody comments that their lawyer has told them something, they may waive client legal privilege meaning they can be cross-examined on the legal advice in Court (when it would otherwise be confidential).

It is also important to remember that the interview is not confidential, and that anything you say to the Family Consultant is reportable to the Court.

 After the Family Report

Following your interview with the Family Consultant, the report will be released to the Court (or must be filed with the Court if you obtained a privately funded family report).  The Court will then release the report to you and your former partner, and any legal representatives prior to a listed Interim Defended Hearing or Final Hearing.  This provides all parties involved with an opportunity to consider settling the matter on the basis of the recommendations made by the Family Consultant.  If the parties agree to settle, signed Consent Orders will be submitted to the Court for consideration, and the Interim Hearing or Final Hearing may be vacated.

If you disagree with the recommendations in the family report, you are able challenge the report’s contents by calling the Family Consultant as a witness during the Final Hearing, where they will be cross-examined on the report, their assessment, and their recommendations.

It is important to remember that the family report is only one source of evidence that the Court will consider in making decisions on the parenting arrangements for your children.  Further, the Court is not obliged to make parenting orders that are consistent with the family report recommendations.


Family reports are a necessary tool used by the Court in the determination of what arrangements best meet a child’s future care, welfare and developmental needs.  It is therefore important that parties adequately prepare for the family report interview so that they can put their best foot forward when discussing proposed parenting arrangements with the Family Consultant.

If you or someone you know wants more information or needs help or advice with a parenting matter or preparing for a family report, please contact our Intake team on (03) 8415 5600 or email us at

This article is intended to provide general information only.  You should obtain professional advice before you undertake any course of action.

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