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The Stigma:

Navigating through the Court system during one of the most stressful times of your life is difficult enough, there are affidavits to write, documents to find and where after all those years did you put your marriage certificate!  To add to this stress, you are then told that you have to be assessed in the Family Report Process.

There are many horror stories about this process and unfortunately some of them are true.  Many people feel that they are not ‘’heard’’ by their report writer or that their report writer was biased to their ex-partner.  They feel that the time is very rushed and ‘’how can someone possibly understand their situation and know what is best for their children when they only speak to them for an hour or two?’’.

The Insight after writing many Family Reports:

I write this blog not only as a Family Report Writer but also as a mother who went through this process for my new husband’s case being interviewed as the ‘’step mother’’ and also in my own case as the mother of two children involved in a parenting dispute.  I speak to you professionally and also from my heart.

The Family Report Process is the only process the Court system has to have an independent person assess the situation of your family.  Think of it as the Courts way to get someone else first to sift through the pages and pages of affidavit material and the ‘’he said, she said” to identify the major issues occurring (and not these are not sunburn, nits or eating junk food!)  for this family and to offer some recommendations for time scheduled for the children.

It is also the only way the Court will hear from the children involved as the family report writer will have an interview with the children and will document what they say.

The details:

The report process itself usually occurs over a full day, with one parent seeing the report writer for their interview first, then this person will be observed with the children, then the next person will be interviewed.  You are not interviewed with your ex-partner, it is always separate interviews.

The interview itself will cover everything including your past so be ready to answer questions about school history, employment history and past relationship history.  You will talk about any medical issues and or addictions.  The report writer has usually read your affidavit material so they will focus on any points in that which they feel are relevant.  Domestic Violence incidence will be talked about in detail.

 

The interviewer will want to know why you feel the schedule you are suggesting for the children is the best option.  It is important to keep focused on the children and their needs. I can promise you, if you turn this short time you have into a sledging session about your ex, it will not go well for you.

Make sure any ‘’allegations’’ you have can be backed up with evidence or you may be seen to be alienating the other parent and please, please don’t take in a bag full of used teaspoons to show the report writer that obviously drugs had been used on the spoons (yes this did happen once!).

Many people worry that one party will coach the children into saying what they want them to say, “daddy yells all the time”, “I want to live with mummy” and yes again this can happen, but please understand we are aware of this and we have our ways when interviewing the children to account for these concerns.

The report:

Once all the interviews have been completed the report will be produced and sent to you or your lawyer.  It can be very difficult reading this report so please do this carefully.  Most will skip straight to the recommendations but once you have done this read the whole report again and once more for good measures, as I can promise you the first time you will only see the negative comments about yourself.

Remember, that this report writer is just one person with one opinion.  This opinion in the eyes of the Court is very important but if it doesn’t go your way you still have options.  Most importantly remember you are in this process for your children, so focus on them, spend time with them, love them and in the end, Court will be over and you will be OK!

ABOUT the Blogger:

Donna Cameron is a Psychologist and has been working in this field for over 15 years.  She has a family of her own and has personally lived through a divorce, the challenges of blending a family together and Court battles so she doesn’t just empathise with you and what you are going through she has lived it.

You can find Donna in our directory.

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