Family consultants are experts in family law cases involving children. They help the court in deciding arrangements for the children.
Family consultants play an essential role in parenting and child related family law cases because of their skills and experience in working with the family. They are social workers and psychologists who are experts in dealing with parents, children, grandparents and other persons who are relevant to a child’s care and welfare. Families whose cases are referred to the Child Responsive Program are referred to sessions with a family consultant.
Their work involves helping the family court in making suitable parenting arrangements for the children. Courts cannot speak directly to children so it will be the family consultant who will be doing that. Parents and children will have series of interviews with the family consultant during which they are encouraged to express their views.
During the Intake and Assessment Meeting with the parents/carer and the Child and Family Meeting with the children the Family Consultant will hopefully be able to assess the needs of the children and how the parents/carers will be able to meet these needs.
Based on the information he gathers during the interviews, the Family Consultant will make a Children and Parents Issues Assessment. The court may ask the Family Consultant to testify about his assessment. The Court will ascertain the issues in the case during the first day of the trial and may pose questions to the family consultant on what specific issues should only be included in the case. The court, in the exercise of its discretion, may ask the Family Consultant to conduct interviews again and make a Family Report. The Family Report will then be submitted to the court.
The report will contain a more detailed assessment of the family life, the views of the parties including those given by the children and recommendations on the arrangements for the children. More interviews and meetings will be held so that a full and complete report can be made.
This report is confidential and must not be disclosed to other persons who are not parties to the case.
The trial will be held in abeyance while the Family Report is not yet ready. This will give the Family Consultant enough time to perform his work. Understandably, it is not all the time that the work cut out for the Family Consultant is smooth sailing. Sometimes there are parents or carers who are unavailable or uncooperative. The children might not easily open up during interviews thus requiring more sessions with the Family Consultant.
The trial will resume once the Family Report is final. The Family Consultant will then be called as a witness during the trial.