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Family Consultant Report weighting

How much weight does the Family Consultant Report hold, and what are my chances at 50/50?

The information provided in the topic is invaluable for me as I have a Family Reporter session in April 2010. Thanks for all the relevant links and personal experiences. I am now not going in blind and naive. I did note that in the invitation it said that I could bring any other significant partner (defacto) along. Somehow I think it means it would be preferable and to my benefit to do so.
Definitely bring your defacto along. It is very important that you do. Your defacto will be a significant part of the children's lives and the reporter and courts need to see the important role that she will play. 

Executive Member of SRL-Resources, the Family Law People on the site (Look for the Avatars).   Be mindful what you post in the public areas
Liberi Primoris said
Definitely bring your defacto along. It is very important that you do. Your defacto will be a significant part of the children's lives and the reporter and courts need to see the important role that she will play. 
It is appropriate that all persons who are involved in a child's life are to some extent seen by the expert. This is more likely when a grandparent or another family member is in constant contact (living) with a child.  The expert witness is about assessing the relative parental capacities of the parties involved.

Family reports can include all words spoken during interviews. The report writer is generally required to read affidavits of the parties, other reports and other pertinent information (sometimes DoCS). That does not mean all, generally those considered relevant by the court. It is within your ambit to see that material is which is regarded by you as influential is read by expert. Once those facts are with the expert it may not be appropriate to spin hem. The expert is sousing out each party to establish as to whether they are facilitating a meaningful relationship with the other parent in the best interests of the child(ren).

I have seen an expert leave the witness box and the court adjourn until an expert had read a critique of that report by an SRL. Leaving it to the last minute may not be desireable. The expert having made reccommendations is challenged to capiitulate whilst before the court. These experts are to an extent (well paid) servants of the court. They are afforded some protection whilst in the witness box by the bench. An unemotive questioning of the expert might yield better results.

When a parent and a child are with the expert the more normal the event the better it may be. Being in the moment and responsive to the child could be assistive. Be mindful that the matter is about the child, not the parent. It does not seem to be a good place to whinge against other parent. Oblique, rather than critical comments might be considered.

Taking along a child's preferred toys, games, even animals can be useful. Familiarity with a game mutually experienced and/or a pet allows mentions to be made about that from previous moments. The time is limited and by introducing elements which consume that time might be advantageous. At the same time one could be criticised for overly buying a child's attention. Old toys might be of more value.

Being relaxed and at the same time getting one's message across is not simple. Having read reports and listened to what those interviewed feel has transpired is interesting. The expert will rarely provide feedback. Expecting feedback could cause a parenting capacity to not be appreciated. A father who suggested to a child that his behaviour during the interview was 'not fair' to the father got marked down.

Since each case has its own complexions there are possibly no specific 'riding instructions'. An interesting word pattern "not emotionally available to child" is indicative of an element that the expert evaluates. The bond between a parent and a child, the visual observations, are noted and are significant.

Legal counsel hear these court appointed experts regularly and tend to try and engineer a favourable expert for their client. If possible research what others can tell you about a specific expert. Unfortunately the experts are not detailed, sometimes just intials. So that source is not available. Attending court is a direct route. It is not rare for a laywer to be seen talking to these experts. It is not allowable prior to their giving evidence. I've seen it happen without any consequences for the barrister. No 'huff in the court's puff'. Raising such instances can affect the weight given to the report.

The opportunity to question an expert may not be appropriate if the report favours one. Like all evidence though the report is the subject of cross-examination so there in lies the opportunity to remedy any facts upon which the assumptions relied upon by the expert are premised.

Hopefully others will contribute and allow you to appreciate how to journey through the moments with the expert. It could be interesting to know of the various perspectives experts have experienced.

Good luck!

What is done for you, let it be done, what you must do, be sure you do it, as the wise person does today that what the fool will do in three days - Buddha
 I would like to follow up on Mr Verdad’s excellent contribution towards understanding the process of the Family Report.

In my humble opinion considerable effort should be put into preparing for this most important evaluation. A favourable report can be the catalyst for settlement before trial, saving you and your family emotional and financial devastation, or otherwise be the decisive piece of evidence to protect your relationship with your child in trial. If the Family Reporter identifies a sound bond between child and Father the court will be reluctant to remove it.

With these in mind it would make sense to find out what the Family Reporter looks for before you have the evaluation. Knowledge is power, foreknowledge is forewarned and forearmed etc…

I searched the net and Amazon.com to find information, specifically, books written by the leading custody evaluators as guides for making a family report. One would appreciate the advantage of such insight into the mind of the family reporter.

Personally I bought
“Clinician’s Guide to Child Custody Evaluations” by Marc J. Ackerman Ph.D.
“Conducting Child Custody Evaluations: A Comprehensive Guide” by Philip Stahl

For a layperson interviewee perspective I found a valuable resource in
“Win Your Child Custody War: Child Custody Help Source Book” by Charlotte Hardwick.
According to one reviewer “ It's just the best guide to custody issues available anywhere at any price”. I would probably agree although it is American and can overload one with detail to the point of paranoia.

Ackerman in chapters 5 through 9 discusses the evaluation process in detail – interviewing children and family members, analysing behavioural observations and interpreting the psychological testing.  He discusses the behaviours that parents should and should not engage in during the custody process. Those parents engaging in more of the do’s and less of the dont’s are more likely to make the better placement parents.  I cannot reproduce this copyrighted material in this public forum but suffice to say all the sources invariably find the less hostile parent to be the preferred parent.

This means don’t attack the Mother. In my own case I did not even mention the Mother in the interview until specifically asked by the evaluator to respond to her allegations. I then rebutted these one by one as the expert read out selections of the multitude to me. Be prepared - write out your responses before the interview but don’t read them.

The family report noted the Father to be intensely focused on the child.

I was asked what I custody arrangement I wanted. Again be prepared with a practical, well-thought out proposal. It is no good asking for parenting time when you are at work and the other parent is available. This just works against you by putting your interests first in not facilitating contact with the other parent and by giving the opposition ammunition to challenge the report recommendations.  At least have suitable alternate care arrangements if you must.

My child is young. I asked for the recommend schedule for young children in high conflict situations namely 313313. This precursor to week about with one overnight in the off week has the advantages that the off-week overnight maximises the time away from either parent to 3 nights and minimises the number of changeovers. These preferably to be no-contact at a neutral location - for both parents safety.  It easily adapts to week about when the child reaches 8.

The Family Reporter bluntly told me that the court would not want a shared parenting recommendation in a case like mine. The Mother had absconded to another city, allegedly into a refuge, and had made shocking allegations to impose supervised contact.

Don’t ask for sole custody as this immediately sets off the alarm bells. Let the other parent draw that scrutiny and hang herself. I maintained my genuine belief that equal shared parenting was in our child’s best interests. I emphasized that the current problems were contrived and exaggerated and we could get along once the stressors of the custody battle were removed.

In my humble opinion the MMPI-2 must be included in every case where mental health issues are alleged. Psychological abuse allegations are hard to defend if the alleger actually believes them. Fortunately for me the Mother’s MMPI-2 identified clinically significant psychopathology. The family reporter had the courage to find these psychological factors to be mainly responsible for her allegations. He recommended equal time.
In retrospect this likely inflamed the dispute by giving the opposition opportunity to run the old strategies of entrenched conflict and non-communication to defeat shared parenting. This nightmare may have been avoided if the recommendation had clearly identified the preferred parent for primary care if shared parenting was found to be not feasible.  I would suggest requesting the report include this. If one is in a weak status quo position one might ask that the family report recommend a trial of shared parenting before a final decision.

I identify with Verdad’s advice on toys. When mum left she removed all trace that the child existed in my home including all her clothing and toys and even stripped the child’s bedroom and removed drawings from the fridge door. I salvaged some old play dough which inevitably became mixed and hard. I went to Kmart the day before evaluation and bought new play dough and for a few extra dollars it was packaged with a puppy extruder. The evaluator asked me to leave this unopened package in the consulting room. When my turn came I found it opened and scattered about on the floor. Child had been playing with it with Mum for an hour and was no longer interested. Family report mentions boundary problems with the Father bringing a new toy to the evaluation and the child failing to help him pick it up after play. The 2nd report mentioned the father did not bring a new toy this time.  

In fact the second time I took “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr Seuss which we often read together at bedtime and the game “Trouble” which is a favourite. Both were great props to help forget someone was there judging your interactions.

Do not become frustrated if your child behaves in an unacceptable manner during the observation period. The evaluator is more concerned with how you respond to your children rather than how good their manners are.

It is critical that you leave this professional with the knowledge that you are a responsible, well-mannered adult whose main concern is the well being of your children.

Further in regard to getting your points across ask if you can submit anything which you consider important but which you might have forgotten to mention during the interview to the Family Reporter directly. This gives you time to asses the situation and carefully word any further material to emphasize your positive factors and how these stabilise and improve the quality of your child’s life or perhaps undo anything you might have regrets about. The family report is the best place to resile from any previous inappropriate or damaging behaviour.
A quick questions as regards the family interview.

Is it possible to have this done in your own home, or is it always done at the reporters office? My reason for asking is my new partner resides overseas and is only available in between trips via skype?  My children enjoy a very loving and open relationship with him in this way, and I would like this to be noted by the reporter as relocation is a possibility (the father has said he is open to the idea with obvious negotiations on this to take place).
A creative response srldad101. Hopefully more shall share their experiences.

srldad101 said
the behaviours that parents should and should not engage in during the custody process
 Perhaps these listed in point form might be assistive to those about to attend the expert. Copyright tends to apply to a significant portion of a publication. By quoting portions it is in a sense advertising the publication to the authors benifit?

srldad101 acquired the following publications and said
"Clinician's Guide to Child Custody Evaluations" by Marc J. Ackerman Ph.D.
"Conducting Child Custody Evaluations: A Comprehensive Guide" by Philip Stahl
"Win Your Child Custody War: Child Custody Help Source Book" by Charlotte Hardwick. 
It might assist if it was known where these are available. You surely prepared in a meaningful manner. That alone indicates how a favourable report might be manifest.

srldad101 said
Do not become frustrated if your child behaves in an unacceptable manner during the observation period. The evaluator is more concerned with how you respond to your children rather than how good their manners are.

This fits well with reports that have been read. There is a very fine edge that may need to be transversed.

The involvement of a family pet which is unlikely to be problematic (a cat) was one of the most clever moves a father effected. Apparently the young girl (about 7) just played with the cat the whole time. When the mother did not produce the same impressionable moment she appeared to be marked down for a lack of innovation. An established attachment to whatever is taken is possibly preferable.

Wiccapixie said
 Is it possible to have this done in your own home, or is it always done at the reporters office?
It could well be that the children's relationship with the new partner might be more significant than any interview might generate. It is hard to imagine an interview at one's home. A telephone interview though would seem more probable. Skype with a camera possibly worth suggesting. It can be the ICL who determines how it might happen, so the question to them might get a more definitive response.

What is done for you, let it be done, what you must do, be sure you do it, as the wise person does today that what the fool will do in three days - Buddha
'Skype with a camera'

Due to the fact my ex consented to the requests I had made, the court ruled no ICL unless recommended by family report.

I expect I can request it when they contact me for interview dates and times though. My final hearing is on 3rd February….. becoming concerned about the lack of hearing from the family reporter… don't they have to have their report in 21 days prior to that?
Wiccapixie said
 Is it possible to have this done in your own home, or is it always done at the reporters office?
 
It is possible to have the family report done in your home. I have seen this occur, however will all depend on the discretion of the family reporter, some family report writers will prefer to do it in the respective homes as it gives a holistic appreciation of the dynamics in both households others will not.

Executive Member of SRL-Resources, the Family Law People on the site (Look for the Avatars).   Be mindful what you post in the public areas
Liberi Primoris said
 Wiccapixie said Is it possible to have this done in your own home, or is it always done at the reporters office?
 
It is possible to have the family report done in your home. I have seen this occur, however will all depend on the discretion of the family reporter, some family report writers will prefer to do it in the respective homes as it gives a holistic appreciation of the dynamics in both households others will not.
The opportunity to have your partner interviewed might best be the purpose of this mode. It would be interesting to know if this occurs?

The role of an ICL in informing what the expert ought to read is a significant one. So the non-appointment of an ICL at this stage when an expert has been appointed would create an unique situation. What and who can provide documentation (normally affidavits) to expert?

Attachment
GUIDELINES FOR INDEPENDENT CHILDREN'S LAWYERS Dec 2007
The attached document was found after attending a hearing today. This refers to the ICL's role and relationship with the expert. Address any procedural questions to the Family Court's information line, it's free.

What is done for you, let it be done, what you must do, be sure you do it, as the wise person does today that what the fool will do in three days - Buddha
I just wanted to mention that I had 2 Family Reports written during the course of my case (both by the same writer).  Our first report interview was done in each of our homes and then the 2nd one was done at the report writers office.  So yes Wiccapixie it is possible to have a report interview in your own home just depends how the report writer does things.  I found it beneficial that the report writer came to my home because she got to see that I have photos of the children around the house and their school art work etc is on display etc which shows that I am interested in my children as well as other things that she got to see that she would never know about had she not done a home visit.  
Verdad, thanks for the link… the roles of ICL and the family reporter/consultant appear to be very intertwined roles, which makes me pause at the fact my children do not have one. (Eldest refused to see dad, middle wavering, and needing reinforcement to go -both old enough for opinions to be heard) (eldest non attendance consented to by dad and in orders).

As I will be bringing up the relocation issue with the reporter I believe I will have an ICL appointed to handle this (and if not I will be asking for one anyway)

With regards to the documentation question - I am with my lawyer tomorrow so will ask her what is happening with that and let you know what she says.

Thank you MO4 , I hope I have the same opportunity.
To my friend Rooster64 I would like to add to LP response to say that it might be advantageous to have your new partner involved in the evaluation. The stability of an established post-separation relationship is a good indication that one is moving on with life and whether it is written in the legislation or not intuitively the court will look favourably on the child being placed with a family rather than a single parent.

Therefore the positive support you can demonstrate from your significant other is important.  The manner in which you and your partner relate to each other on a verbal and non-verbal level will be observed, studied and noted by the family reporter. Touching in the presence of the expert should be gestures of assurance and reassurance rather than touching that shows signs of possession or intimate feelings.  

The other side of the coin is that your relationship, with inherent usurping threat to Mother, might very well expose some unpleasant character flaws in the opposition’s case.  Is the dispute pursuing a vendetta rather than the welfare of child?
       
The books cited were all sourced from Amazon.com. This virtual bookshop contains facility to look inside the book online and links to other books in the same category. Presumably they can be sourced in Australia via the ISBN however I found it easier to push a button and have them delivered to my door in 7-10 days. Factor in the cost and time of air freight.

“Clinician’s Guide to Child Custody Evaluations” by Marc J. Ackerman Ph.D.
 3 edition (January 30, 2006) ISBN-10: 0471746169 $53

“Conducting Child Custody Evaluations: A Comprehensive Guide” by Philip Stahl
1994 edition ISBN-10: 0803948212 $58.75

 “Win Your Child Custody War: Child Custody Help Source Book” by Charlotte Hardwick.
 ISBN-10: 1587470845 12th Edn $130

Further to Verdad’s cat innovation, I took my pocket video camera which enabled me to playback some of those precious family moments. Do you remember when we did this or the ballet concert or winning your first race, there is nana and the pup, etc. The playback is a virtual family home movie which is always a hit – at least for the family. Child was fascinated with zooming and recording self and me and the family reporter - they turned out just fine.

The do’s and dont’s still require a bit of typing. Later
Well, it was an interesting day at court today to say the least, I ending up consenting to the ex taking yet a further 30% of the property pool, even though he owes over 100k in damages. This was recommended by the registrar, who also after removing the ex from the room, offered me a security guard when I left. He recommended this simply to get it over and the guy out of my life. So I did. I figure I'm still young enough, to put this behind me (hopefully soon) and be able to constructively go forward, as I will still have to deal with him (we have 3 children together). Anyway…

I am informed that in cases where there is no ICL that the court will send the documents directly to the report writer.

I am also informed by the report writer that relocation cases may cease being heard for a short period due to a new judgement that was recently overturned by the High Court (Rosa). The findings have not yet been made available so magistrates may not hear cases until they have a chance to read and understand the new decisions.
I am also informed that the government may be changing legislation in this area very shortly.

Not much to go on… but helpful none the less.
Wiccapixie said
Well, it was an interesting day at court today to say the least, I ending up consenting to the ex taking yet a further 30% of the property pool, even though he owes over 100k in damages. This was recommended by the registrar, who also after removing the ex from the room, offered me a security guard when I left. He recommended this simply to get it over and the guy out of my life. So I did. I figure I'm still young enough, to put this behind me (hopefully soon) and be able to constructively go forward, as I will still have to deal with him (we have 3 children together). Anyway…

Nice one. Some common sense. You don't need conflict in your life if you don't have to. Life still has plenty to offer. Good on you.

4MYDAUGHTER
Srldad said
The family report noted the Father to be intensely focused on the child
Some very excellent points raise by SRLdad. However none more important than the above.

"When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside can not hurt you"

Executive of SRL-Resources
Patronus said
Srldad said
The family report noted the Father to be intensely focused on the child
Some very excellent points raise by SRLdad. However none more important than the above.
 
I agree with you Patronus it is always good to hear when the family report writer notices exactly who is focused on the child and whom is pretending to be.  I think this goes both ways for both fathers and mothers.   In my case my ex tried to proves he had the childrens best interests in mind but luckily for me the report writer saw through the lies.  I suppose the best proof now is the fact he has had no proper contact for over 12 mths but then maybe he thinks that behaviour is in the best interest of the children??
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