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Family Law Courts - Australian Standards of Practice for Family Assessments and Reporting

Australian Standards of Practice for Family Assessments and Reporting

Here's a copy of the Family Courts' new publication, Australian Standards of Practice for Family Assessments and Reporting FYI FWIW.

http://t.co/nPLq61lZ1J%20or

http://www.familylawcourts.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/FLC/Home/Publications/Family+Law+Courts+publications/FLC_cds_asp_for_family_assessment_reporting

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Foreword

The conduct of family assessments and the subsequent development of family reports play a critical role in the decision-making process of judicial officers when dealing with family law disputes that are before the courts.

We are very pleased to see the release of the Australian Standards of Practice for Family Assessments and Reporting, a publication developed by the Family Court of Australia, the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and the Family Court of Western Australia.

Ensuring good practices in conducting and reporting in family assessments in family law matters is essential in helping to determine the ‘best interests of the child’.

The overarching aim of this publication is to provide information to the decision-makers, agencies and legal professionals involved in the cases, as to what constitutes good practice in family assessments and reporting. This publication attempts to outline a minimum standard of practice when conducting family assessments and preparing reports.

This publication is a result of extensive work and consultation with many people and organisations and we would like to acknowledge Pam Hemphill, Principal Child Dispute Services (Family Court and Federal Circuit Court), and David Hugall, Regional Coordinator, Queensland (Family Court and Federal Circuit Court), for undertaking this task. Our thanks also go to Judge Baumann, family consultants and Regulation 7 family consultants, the Australian Psychological Society, the Australian Association of Social Workers, the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (Australian Chapter), family report writers at various Legal Aid Commissions, the Family Court of Western Australia (Paul Kerin and Yvonne Patterson), the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia, National Legal Aid, Women’s Legal Services Australia and a range of private psychologists for their input and comments.

On behalf of all three courts that deal with family law matters throughout Australia, we hope you find the document a practical and useful guide to responding to family assessments in children’s matters.

Diana Bryant AO, Chief Justice, Family Court of Australia
John Pascoe AO CVO, Chief Judge, Federal Circuit Court of Australia
Stephen Thackray, Chief Judge, Family Court of Western Australia


Introduction

These Standards aim to promote good practice in conducting and reporting in full family assessments by social workers and psychologists in family law matters, such as those completed under s62G of the Family Law Act and family reports commissioned privately. Their aim is to provide information to the judiciary, agencies, legal professionals and parties who utilise the services of family assessors to increase the understanding in the broader sector as to what constitutes good practice in family assessments and reporting. They attempt to inform what can be expected as a minimum standard of practice when conducting family assessments and preparing reports.

The Standards address some common issues and concerns about family assessments and the processes of assessments and reporting.

The Standards are only intended to apply to full family assessments and not to more brief or preliminary assessments conducted in such events as child inclusive conferences, child inclusive mediation or case assessment conferences.

The Standards should apply to completed assessments where the family assessor offers recommendations concerning the longer term parenting arrangements for children of separated parents or caregivers. They apply to any situation where the family assessor has prior knowledge that decisions about living arrangements, visiting arrangements or parenting decisions are involved in the matter. This can be whether the assessment is ordered by a court, arranged by the parties or their legal representatives, or by the independent children’s lawyer.

The principles and practices in these Standards are not intended as a step-by-step guide to practice, nor to limit the discretion of social scientists conducting assessments in individual cases. It is recognised that the processes of each assessment must be tailored to the needs and circumstances of that matter, as well as guided by principles of best and ethical professional practice.

The Standards acknowledge and have drawn on the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts Model Standards of Practice for Child Cust-ody Evaluations (2006), the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia Child Dispute Services Professional Directions for Family Consultants, and the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia Family Violence Best Practice Principles – third edition (2012).

Definition and purpose of family assessments

A family assessment is a professional forensic assessment undertaken to assist a court and/or the parties decide on parenting arrangements for children of separated parents or caregivers. It is an independent, professional forensic appraisal of the family, done from a social science and non-partisan perspective.

A family assessment provides a comprehensive and impartial social science perspective, and has the functional value of contributing to informed and child-centred decisions.

The assessment provides information about the views and needs of children and their relationships with their parents and other significant adults, and of the attitudes and parental capacities of the adults with regard to the children’s needs.

Family assessments should include assessment of any risk factors identified in a matter. Where there are concerns about family violence, a specialised family violence assessment should be included in the assessment and the report.

Principles for family assessors

PRELIMINARY ISSUES AND ARRANGING THE ASSESSMENT


  Communication with the parties and their representatives
  Conducting assessments
  Children in family assessments
  Formulating assessments/opinions and reporting
  Cultural issues
  Home visits
  Notification of risk of harm
  Recording and storing information

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