A court child expert (CCE) is a qualified psychologist or social worker who has specialist knowledge in the impact of separation and divorce on children and families. CCEs work for the Court Children’s Service (CCS) which is within the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA). CCEs are appointed by the Court’s CEO as a family consultant and they are also authorised to work as a family counsellor and can be ordered by the Court in either capacity.
CCEs play a unique and critical role within the family law system by providing social science expertise to assist the Court and families to make decisions that are in the children’s best interests. CCEs do this by:
- Conducting assessments of children and families involved in family law proceedings. CCEs are often asked to conduct assessments of children and families involved in family law proceedings. These assessments can be used to gather information about the children’s needs, the parents’ parenting capacity, and the family’s overall circumstances. CCEs use a variety of methods to gather information, such as interviews, questionnaires, and observations.
- Providing reports and recommendations to the Court on the children’s best interests. This can be at the start of the matter for the preparation of a Child Impact Report, or later in the proceedings when a detailed Family Report may be required for a final hearing. After conducting an assessment, the CCE will write a report and make recommendations to the Court on the children’s best interests. The report will typically include information about the children’s physical and emotional health, their educational needs, their relationships with their parents, and the parents’ parenting capacity. The CCE will also make recommendations about the type of parenting arrangements that may be in the children’s best interests. These reports are not binding on the judicial officer, but they are persuasive and can assist the Court to make decisions.
- Offering mediation and counselling services to families. CCEs can also attend court based mediation services to families involved in family law proceedings where ordered by the court. Mediation is a process where the parents work together with a mediator to reach an agreement about parenting arrangements. The CCE can attend mediation to present the children’s views and offer an opinion as to what might be in the children’s best interests. Coming from an independent person, such as a CCE, parents might be more willing to compromise to reach an outcome that is best for the children.
- Providing training and education to family law professionals and other third party agencies.
If a CCE is appointed in a matter as a family consultant, this will be their only role in the proceedings. If the matter is later referred for dispute resolution with a CCE present, a different CCE will be appointed to the case.
Quite often we have clients who are concerned that a parent has or will “coach” a child to say or act a certain way toward the CCE. A CCE is usually very experienced at detecting where a child has been influenced to provide certain responses and will reveal those concerns in their reports.
CCEs play a vital role in the family law system by providing an independent expert opinion to families and the Court to assist the Court and the parties reach an outcome that is in the best interests of the children.
Here at Gillard Family Lawyers, we have experienced solicitors in the area of family law to help you manage your parenting matters. 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.