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The Role of Family Consultants in the Family Court- A Guide for the Effective Solicitor.

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Presentation on theme: "The Role of Family Consultants in the Family Court- A Guide for the Effective Solicitor."— Presentation transcript:


2 The Role of Family Consultants in the Family Court- A Guide for the Effective Solicitor

3 Evolution of the Family Consultant 1975- 1995- Counsellors Privileged conciliation counselling and family reports. 1995 – 2006- Mediators Privileged conciliation counselling, case assessment conferences, family reports. Family Court and FMC. 2006 – 2009- Family Consultants Child Responsive Program - admissible assessments to identify key issues and reports to assist determination. Separate Family Consultants for two Courts

4 The Legislation Functions of Family Consultants - Section 11A (a) assisting and advising people involved in the proceedings (b)assisting and advising courts, and giving evidence, in relation to the proceedings (c)helping people involved in the proceedings to resolve disputes that are the subject of the proceedings (d)reporting to the court under Divisions 55A and 62G (e)advising the court about appropriate family counsellors, family dispute resolution practitioners and courses, programs and services to which the court can refer the parties to the proceedings.

5 The Legislation 11C - Admissibility of communications with family consultants 38BD(3) (a) - Section 11C (admissibility of communications with family consultants) does not apply to the officer at any time while the officer is acting as a family counsellor or family dispute resolution practitioner

6 Who are Family Consultants Social science qualifications (Psychology/Social Work) Eligibility for membership APA/AASW Experience in working with and assessing families and children Internal supervision, support and accountability

7 Family Consultants- Training and Knowledge Attachment Relocation Shared parenting Overnight visits for young children Parental alignment and rejection Family violence and child abuse Impact of conflict or trauma on children Impact of drug and alcohol misuse on parenting Impact of mental illness on parenting Working with and assessing Indigenous families

8 Family Court Children’s Matters – Family Consultant Roles Less Adversarial Trials Child Responsive Program( Including attending LAT events) Supervision and support - Section 65L Family reports and specific issues reports Post orders follow up Magellan Cases Full family assessment reports Supervision and support - Section 65L Post orders follow up Hague Convention Regulation 26 reports

9 Child Responsive Program Commences prior to the 1 st Day of the LAT Focus on the children’s needs and views Identification of family violence and other possible issues Initial assessment of the children and key issues Case management recommendations

10 CHILD RESPONSIVE PROGRAM (Role of Family Consultant in LAT) Pre LAT Intake and Assessment Meetings – Interview parents Child and Family Meetings- Interview children Children and Parents Issues Assessment Optional Selective Settlement Meeting – (with solicitors) During LAT Oral evidence on first day of LAT Child Dispute Meeting – (with solicitors) Attend continuation events as requested Specific issues report or full family report Section 65L (Prior to final orders) Cross-examination Post LAT Post Orders Review and Referral Meeting

11 FAMILY CONSULTANT’S ROLE IN LAT LAT Continuation/ Finalisation Full Family Assessment Report Specific Issues Report Section 65L Intake and Assessment Meetings Child and Family Meetings Selective Settlement Meeting First Day LAT Post Orders Review and Referral Meeting Consent Orders Children and Parents Issues Assessment Child Dispute Meeting Cross- examination Oral Evidence

12 Children and Parents Issues Assessment The children- experience of separation, developmental level and views Identify key issues Parent’s understanding of the children’s needs Future directions recommendations– assessments, case management Sent to parties and solicitors prior to first day LAT

13 First Day of LAT – Role of Family Consultant Provide assistance to the Judge Independent social science expert Relevant social science research Provide information on children’s views and needs Assist in identification of key issues Participate in discussions in court Options for case management, assessments and referrals Discuss options for settlement with parties and legal representatives

14 Family Report Family Consultant advises on matters to be assessed Judge determines matters to be assessed and reported on Report to be limited to matters set out in order for the report Additional matters can be included if relevant to child’s best interests Family Consultant usually completes report

15 Finalisation of the LAT - Role of Family Consultant Provide a family report that focuses on the issues determined by the Judge. Give expert evidence based on their assessment of the children, report on the children’s views and experience of their family and relationships. Assess from a social science perspective, the options and comment as to the outcomes that best meet the children’s needs and best interests. Advise the Court about the appropriate counselling, treatment, dispute resolution or support services for clients in community agencies.

16 After the LAT The Family Consultant can, if ordered by the Court, explain the orders and their effect to children and/or parents. Facilitate changeovers of children Refer clients to other services – community agencies

17 Magellan Matters Family consultant completes a full family assessment report ( As ordered by Judge/registrar) Section 60CC factors Specific assessment of any risk of future harm Case management recommendations Updated Family reports as ordered

18 Section 65L Supervision and Support Section 65L - Family consultants may be required to supervise or assist compliance with parenting orders Used only during interim period, prior to final orders being made Specific time periods and aims –tailored to the needs of the case (eg problems with visitation) Admissible as evidence Report by family consultant may be required- on compliance with orders or on effect of interventions

19 Hague Convention Matters Report under Regulation 26 of the Family Law (Child Abduction Convention) An assessment of the child, of whether the child objects to being returned to the country from which she/he was removed, The nature of the objection, and The possible impact on the child of being returned to that country. Explaining orders to children

20 Points for Solicitors Children and Parents Issues Assessments and Family Reports Affidavit/subpoenaed material to be read by family consultant – by order of Registrar/Judge. Raise practical issues of attendance for clients, special needs of clients and participation of children. Interpret assessment and discuss with clients before next return date – as feedback to parents.

21 Points for Solicitors Selective Settlement Meeting or Child Dispute Meeting (at LAT) Identify when may be useful. Check on admissibility. Participate as arranged by family consultant, raised options and assist in settlement.

22 Points for Solicitors Finalization/Final Hearing Confirm family consultant availability as witness prior to event. Advise witness of progress of trial, and if not required. Liaise with family consultant on any arrangement for explaining orders to children, or handovers.

23 The Role of Family Consultants in the Family Court- A Guide for the Effective Solicitor

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