When looking for the best family lawyers in Sydney to represent you, it is important that they are well versed in the resources available to them. The Court Children’s Services (CCS), previously the Child Dispute Services, is one of those resources which the top family lawyers in Sydney utilise. Prioritising children’s safety and adopting a child-centred approach while delivering optimal practice, the CCS acts with professionalism and integrity, providing a variety of services to families, family law firms, and the Court. These include:
- Helping parents understand the needs of their children after separation
- Identifying risk factors that impact children
- Identifying family strengths and protective factors
- Providing assessments and advice to the Court as an expert witness
- Providing information about resources and support services
- Assisting in the resolution of disputes
The CCS workforce is structured by way of Court Child Experts and Regulation 7 Family Consultants. A Court Child Expert is an employee of the Court, undertaking the duties of a consultant and a counsellor. They must be a social worker or a psychologist and have a minimum of five years relevant experience. A Regulation 7 Family Consultant requires the same level of qualification and experience as a Court Child Expert; however, they operate as private practitioners undertaking CCS work on a fee-for-service basis.
Different CCS Report Types
When accessing your case, the more trusted family law firms utilise a variety of report types available through the CCS, tailoring to your specific needs. Early in proceedings, a preliminary assessment by way of a Child Impact Report may be required. These child-focused primary assessments provide insights into children’s views, needs and experiences – giving parents, family lawyers and the Court adequate guidance over the individual needs of the child. The best family lawyers recommend these preliminary assessments for new parenting matters as they utilise the expertise of the CCE workforce, assess children in a child-focused manner and allow the CCE to provide feedback to the parties which ultimately guides appropriate next steps.
While Child Impact Reports are not recommended for final hearing cases (as they are not suitable for cross examination), if your matter does proceed to final hearing, the CCS has a variety of alternate report options available to you. As there are pros and cons for each final hearing report option, having the support and expertise of the best family lawyers is pivotal when deciding which option is most appropriate. For example, a Child Impact Addendum Report offers a limited and targeted enquiry, building upon information gathered in a previous Child Impact Report. They are undertaken within six months of the Child Impact Report by the original Court Child Expert.
While these reports are rare, they are optimally suited to less complex matters as they cannot provide a comprehensive assessment of risks or other complex issues. Moreover, Specific Issues Reports are more suited to matters where the scope of information sought is limited to one or two issues or events relevant to a particular case. Specific Issues Reports provide, where possible, social science opinions and conclusions related to the specific issues assessed to support final hearings. Accordingly, they do not provide a comprehensive assessment of the child’s well-being.
Reports Top Family Lawyers Utilise
Conversely, Family Reports are commonly utilised by family law firms as they provide a comprehensive assessment of risk factors, familial relationships, children’s functioning, and well-being within the familial context, catering to the children’s needs, views and wishes. In doing so, these reports offer comprehensive analysis and evaluation of Section 60 factors and issues in dispute before the Court and provide recommendations where possible to support final hearings.
Importantly however, Family Reports cannot provide clinical assessment or diagnosis of any mental health or related issues. Furthermore, they can be updated at a later stage of proceedings by way of an Updated Family Report. These reports offer family lawyers and their clients a limited re-assessment of changes since the initial report was conducted.
In summary, while not all cases warrant an CCS event, the best family lawyers are able to decipher between the report options available to determine if, when and what event is required on a case-by-case basis. As the role of CCS is to provide expert opinion about children, the top family law firms in Sydney seek to utilise the CCS to achieve the best outcomes for their clients.