What is a Child Impact Report?

If you have recently become involved in Court proceedings relating to arrangements for children, you may have been ordered to participate in interviews for a Child Impact Report. Such reports are frequently ordered prior to an interim hearing in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia. 

Child Impact Reports – previously called Child Inclusive Conference or Child Dispute Conference Memorandums, are documents prepared by a court appointed psychologist or social worker, called a Court Child Expert.  These reports provide a preliminary assessment of the issues relevant to the Court making a determination as to the appropriate arrangements for your children. 

Purpose of the Report

These interviews are primarily concerned with:

  1. Identifying the needs of the children – including any specific developmental or additional needs;
  2. Identifying the issues in dispute – such as if either party is making allegations of risk against one another (family violence, drugs, alcohol, lack of parental capacity etc.);
  3. Establishing if there are any points of agreement, or prospects of you settling the matter without the Court making a decision; and
  4. Recording any expressed views of the subject children (if they are of an age where this is possible or appropriate).

Who pays?

Reports are provided free of charge by the Court.

In some circumstances, and in consideration of the financial means of the parties, the Court will require parties to independently fund these reports and jointly appoint a private psychologist, social worker or psychiatrist to conduct the interviews. The courts will generally order each party pay half the costs unless they determine that it would be unjust to do so on account of a significant financial disparity between the parents

The Procedure

The report writer meets with the parents first (generally via Microsoft Teams during the Covid-19 pandemic) and individually. You will probably not be seen together. The session is not confidential. Anything you say to the report writer may be contained in the impact report.  It is important not to view the report writer as a therapeutic practitioner, but rather consider that everything you say could ultimately be reported to the Judge and the other party.

The report writer will then generally meet with the children if they determine this is appropriate (Depending on the age and developmental needs of the specific children), however they will not pressure children to express their view if they are reluctant to do so and they are not obliged to express the views of the child if they consider it would be detrimental to the child (for example to avoid putting the child under pressure or have their views known which may hurt a parent).  In other circumstances the report writer may observe the children spending time with a parent if they deem this appropriate.

The Contents of the Report

The report writer may make a series of recommendations to the court about the future progress of the matter.  These recommendations may include;

  1. Whether it would be appropriate for an Independent Children’s Lawyer to be appointed to represent the interests of the children;
  2. Whether the parties would be assisted by further Family Dispute Resolution;
  3. What if any further reports would be appropriate in the matter (specific issue reports, single expert reports, family report, child impact addendum report);
  4. Time spent with a child and their parents.

How do I prepare myself and my child?

Whilst children can be advised in age appropriate terms that they are going to speak with someone about their views and wishes, it is important that you do not attempt to coach or prepare children for their interviews beyond a general conversation. Any coaching of children as to what they should say will generally be viewed very negatively by the Court.

Child Impact Reports are concerned with parenting matters, and property matters will only be touched upon insofar as they directly relate to parenting issues (such as questions of housing).  It is important to focus directly on the questions you are asked by the report writer, and to always focus your responses on your children, rather than utilizing the process as an opportunity to vent about the other party. 

At Godden Lawyers, we can assist you with expert advice relating to all aspects of your family law matter.  You may use our confidential online booking system to make an appointment or call our receptionist on  02 8883 1918.