A Child Impact Report (CIR) is a document that is prepared by a Court Child Expert (CCE) at the request of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia. The purpose of a CIR is to provide the Court with information about the experiences and needs of children in the context of a parenting dispute.
The CCE will consider a range of factors when preparing a CIR, including the children’s age, maturity, and understanding; their relationships with their parents and other significant adults; their views about the dispute; and the impact of the dispute on their development and well-being. The CCE will also consider any risk factors that may be present in the family, such as family violence or substance abuse.
CIRs are typically ordered by the Court in the early stages of parenting proceedings, often prior to an Interim Hearing.
The Court may order a CIR if it is concerned about the impact of the dispute on the children, or if it needs more information about the children’s needs and experiences. The Court may also order a CIR if the parents cannot agree on parenting arrangements. The CIR can help the Court to understand the children’s views and to make decisions that are in their best interests.
Due to the timing of the CIR, they do have some limitations. A CCE who prepares a CIR does not generally read subpoena material, except where ordered by the court. Depending on the availability of CCEs to prepare the report, they can also cause a delay in an interim hearing taking place and, ultimately, progression of the proceedings.
CIRs are not binding on the Court, but they can be a valuable tool for the Court in making decisions about the children’s best interests. The Court will take into account the CIR when making its decision, but it will also consider other factors, such as the evidence presented by both parents.
How is a Child Impact Report prepared?
The CCE will typically meet with each of the parents and the children separately. In some cases the CCE will not interview the child, such as where the child is too young. As separation is an emotional time for all parties, an independent third party such as a CCE may assist in allowing the children to disclose how they are really feeling. This can be insightful to both parents in deciding what would be the best outcome for the children. It is important to remember that all discussions with the CCE can be admissible in the proceedings.
The CCE will then write a report that summarises the information they have gathered. The report will include the CCE’s observations about the children, their relationships with their parents, and the impact of the dispute on their development and well-being. The report will also include the CCE’s recommendations for the Court.
There are a number of benefits to having a CIR prepared. CIRs can help the Court to:
- Understand the children’s experiences and needs
- Identify any risk factors in the family
- Make decisions that are in the children’s best interests
CIRs can also help the parents to:
- Better understand their children’s needs
- Communicate more effectively with each other about the children
- Reach a mutually agreeable parenting arrangement
If the matter is not resolved following a CIR and the matter progresses before the Court, the Court may order a more comprehensive Family Report to assist it to make a final parenting decision.
Child Impact Reports are an important tool in family law proceedings in Australia. They can help the Court to understand the children’s experiences and needs, and to make decisions that are in their best interests. If you are involved in parenting proceedings, you should be aware of the possibility of having a CIR prepared.
Here at Gillard Family Lawyers, we have experienced solicitors in the area of family law to help you manage your parenting proceedings. We pride ourselves on empathy and compassion, so if you need legal help with a Family Law matter, simply get in touch with our friendly team.