As a result of the introduction of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia, parents who are in Court regarding their parenting dispute may be ordered to participate in meetings with a Court Child Expert for the purposes of a Child Impact Report being prepared.
What is a Court Child Expert?
A Court Child Expert is a qualified psychologist or social worker who specialise in child and family issues after separation.
What is the purpose of a Child Impact Report?
The purpose of a Child Impact Report is to provide information about the experiences and needs of children and considers a range of issues.
- Your child’s development,
- Your child’s relationships
- Presence of risk factors (such as family violence)
Child Impact Reports focus on the impact these types of issues have upon children and parenting.
How is the report is structured?
A Child Impact Report can be best understood as occurring in three parts.
- The first part being when the child expert meets with the parents separately
- The second part being when the child expert meets with the child
- The third part being when the child expert prepares a report for the Court
What happens when the Child Expert meets the parents?
In the Court Child Expert’s meeting with the parents, the Child Expert will:
- Ask questions about the circumstances of the children
- Make enquiries regarding family violence and the nature of the parent’s relationship
- Make enquiries regarding any risk issues that have been alleged in the court documents or that arise as a result of the meeting with the parents
- Discuss the post separation parenting
- Any other issue that the child expert identifies as being relevant to the care and welfare of the child that may assist in determining what is in the child’s best interests regarding live with and spend time with orders that the court may need to make.
What happens when the Child Expert meets the child?
If the child expert meets with the child, then this meeting is an opportunity for the child to express their feelings and experiences of the family situation. There is no pressure on the child to express their views or feelings.
If there is more than one child, then the child expert may wish to speak to each child separately before seeing them all at once.
The child expert may also wish to observe the children with each parent.
How can I prepare my child?
You can prepare your child for the child expert meeting by telling them that they will be meeting with someone from the Court that wants to talk to them about their experiences and views. However, they don’t have to talk about anything if they don’t want to.
Importantly, you must NOT coach your child on what to say or don’t say.
Reporting and COVID
As a result of COVID, these meetings are being conducted by way of Microsoft teams and it usually takes around two hours to complete. Anything you say to the child expert is not confidential.
What happens next?
After the meeting with the parent and the child takes place, the child expert then prepares a report. This identifies the needs of the children and makes recommendations that may assist the parties resolving the matter by consent, or providing the court further evidence to consider when determining what is in the child’s best interests.