When a case before the family court involves children it is likely that the judicial officer will order a family report to be made. This is because courts are normally reluctant to subject children to the rigours of a court proceeding.
However, the court needs to know the opinion of children sometimes especially when there is an inconsistency between the testimonies of the parents. The solution then is to order a family report.
The advantage of having a family report is that it is conducted by an expert who has experience in talking to children and families. Children are not unduly exposed to harm because family reports are prepared by psychologists and social workers.
Furthermore, some children are able to freely express their feelings once they are alone with experts. There are children who would otherwise feel inhibited if they are asked questions in the presence of their parents because they do not want to appear that they are choosing sides.
A family report is very effective in conveying to the court the wishes and views of children with respect to issues that concern them like with whom they would want to live, who are the significant people in their lives or who they want to have continuous contact.
The main consideration of the court in a case that involves children is always their best interest. Hence, in deciding a case the court would first consider what would be in a child’s best interest. The purpose of having a family report is that it helps the court in determining the child’s best interest.
The family report expert (usually an accredited social worker or psychologist ) will be talking to the child alone or with his parents and will also be talking alone with the parents and other significant persons in the child’s life. The family report writer will be gathering information about the child’s history as well as that of the family, the relationship of the child with his parents, siblings and other persons and of course, the child’s views.
After talking to the relevant persons, the family report writer will be including recommendations in his report like who the child should live with and have contact with, how much time should be spent with significant persons, and other matters that pertain to parental responsibilities.