Policy Statement

Child Dispute Services (CDS) is committed to excellence in the provision of family assessments for the purpose of providing expert advice and evidence, as defined by the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (FLA), to the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia. The CDS assessment framework is centred on the safety and wellbeing of children.  All family assessments conducted by CDS will align with the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia’s Family Violence Best Practice Principles.  Family assessments conducted pursuant to s 62G FLA will also align with The Australian Standards of Practice for Family Assessment and Reporting published by the Family Court of Australia, the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and the Family Court of Western Australia

Scope

This policy applies to all CDS staff and CDS Family Consultants appointed under the Family Law Regulations 1984 (Cth), reg.7.

What is a Family Assessment?

Family assessments provide an independent, professional, forensic appraisal of the issues in a case and may be in the form of a preliminary or comprehensive assessment. The ordering of a family assessment can assist judicial officers to make interim or final decisions about arrangements for the child/ren.  In some matters they may also assist the parties reach an agreement. Following a family assessment, information is provided to the Court in either written and/or oral form.

A range of preliminary family assessments can be ordered pursuant tos 11F FLA. Preliminary assessments are conducted for the purpose of preparing a memorandum to the Court. In a limited number of matters the Court may also require CDS to provide an assessment during a s 65L FLA event.

A range of comprehensive family assessments can be ordered pursuant to s 62G FLA. Comprehensive assessments are conducted for the purpose of preparing: a Family Report, a Family Report Update/Addendum, a Specific Issues Report, a Magellan Family Report, and a Medical Issues Report. Additionally, as per the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, a Hague Convention Report may also be ordered.

Within CDS, family assessments are conducted by Family Consultants employed by the Courts or Family Consultants appointed under the Family Law Regulations 1984 (Cth), reg.7.

CDS Commitments

  1. The safety and wellbeing of children are the primary focus of family assessments. The Family Consultant will consider the family’s unique circumstances, explore issues relevant to the case and provide advice to the Court in regards to the child/ren’s future care, welfare and developmental needs.
  2. Identification of risk is inherent to conducting family assessments. Risk screening will occur in all CDS events and will include screening for the following risk factors: family violence and abuse, child safety and wellbeing, alcohol and substance use, mental health, the potential for child abduction, and any other risk which may be relevant to the child’s future care and wellbeing. Where a risk is identified during a s 11F FLA or s 65L FLA event, a preliminary or limited risk assessment will occur. Where risk is identified during a s 62G FLA event a comprehensive risk assessment will be completed.  Where a significant risk of harm is identified, Family Consultants will notify the appropriate authorities as is required by their professional responsibilities and legal obligations.
  3. CDS recognises the importance of retaining a non-partisan approach to the issues in dispute when conducting family assessments. Family Consultants will consider any particular needs of parties as necessary to ensure that they have an equitable opportunity to express their views.
  4. In order to conduct family assessments Family Consultants require a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of child development, child abuse, family violence, mental health, substance misuse and the impacts of conflict on children. CDS will ensure that clinicians appointed as Family Consultants have the appropriate professional qualifications and experience.  All CDS Family Consultants will participate in regular training and professional development in relevant areas, and will be familiar with and comply with all relevant policy, practice guidelines and professional directions in relation to family assessments.
  5. Reports or memoranda provided by CDS constitute expert opinion for the purpose of assisting the Court in making decisions about the issues in dispute.  CDS will also endeavour to ensure that Family Consultants are available to answer questions about their assessment of the family, through the provision of oral evidence, as directed by the Court.

Supporting external documents

Name

Location

Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia – Family Violence Best Practice Principles

http://www.familycourt.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/fcoaweb/family-law-matters/family-violence-best-practice-principles/

Family Court of Australia, Federal Circuit Court of Australia and Family Court of Western Australia – The Australian Standards of Practice for Family Assessment and Reporting

http://www.familycourt.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/fcoaweb/about/policies-and-procedures/asp-family-assessments-reporting

Family Law Act 1975

https://www.legislation.gov.au/Current/F2018C00002

Family Law Regulations 1984

https://www.legislation.gov.au/Current/C2018C00003

Responsibility

Policy Owner

Principal, Child Dispute Services

Version control and change history

Version No

Approval Date

Approved by

Amendment

V1.0

31 March 2013

Principal, CDS

Formerly called - Family Report Policy

V2.0

28 July 2017

Principal, CDS