Family reports and family violence in Australian family law proceedings: What do we know?
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Family reports are critical documents in family parenting cases. They are often the only social science information available to the judge, the lawyers and the parties. They are influential in judicial decision-making and out-of-court negotiations. Despite their importance there has been little direct research about the quality and impact of family reports in Australia. It is also known that family violence is a common occurrence in parenting cases that progress to ligation, and therefore the kinds of cases in which family reports are ordered, but again this is an under-researched issue. This article presents foundational information about the existing research to identify what is known about family reports and family violence. It examines the legislative framework for family report writing and analyses the official guidelines and documents and informal information that provide context to this work. It considers what family report writers need to know and understand about family violence to write reports that deal appropriately with family violence and make safe recommendations. Australian and international research on family violence, its impact on parenting, its role in family law proceedings and its influence in family report writing is reviewed. The article concludes that Australian research in this area is required to contribute to improved practices in family reports.
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