Since the merger of the Federal Circuit and Family Court almost 12 months ago, it has become common practice during the early stages of a child custody dispute for a Registrar or Judge to order a Child Impact Report.

The power for the Court to order these reports is found within section 11f and section 62g Family Law Act 1975, which are the same sections utilised to order reports, short reports, and memorandums prior to the merger. The sections allows the Court, upon its own motion, or upon the Application of a party or independent children’s lawyer, to order one or more parties and subject children to attend upon a Court Child Expert or Family Consultant for an appointment or series of appointments. After these appointments a report is produced to assist the Court and the parties to determine what is in a Child’s Best Interests.

Regulation 7 Family Consultant or Court Child Expert?

The primary difference between a Child Expert and Regulation 7 Family Consultant is the Child Expert is an employee of the Court working in the Court Children’s Services department, whilst a Regulation 7 Family Consultant is a private practitioner engaged by the Court on a fee for service basis. Further, the duties of the Child Expert are wider in scope than the Family Consultant.

Typically, these practitioners are professionally qualified as either psychologists or social workers and have specialist knowledge and experience in dealing with children from separated families, family violence and other issues associated with relationship breakdown.
A person who is engaged as a Child Expert holds a statutory appointment as a Family Consultant and an authorisation to act as a Family Counsellor however, they cannot take the role of a Family Consultant or Family Counsellor in the same case that they have been appointed a Child Expert.

Child Impact Report

The Child Impact Report is usually ordered to occur at an early stage of the parenting dispute. Having this information early is of assistance to the Court and parties to understand how the separation and issues arising from the separation are affecting children.
The types of issues explored include:

  • The nature of the children’s relationship with each parent and other family members relevant to the orders sought.
  • The children’s views with respect to any aspect of the orders sought by a party.
  • How post separation changed circumstances are affecting the children.
  • Obtaining information with respect to the children’s developmental needs and experiences.
  • Investigating what future arrangements may best meet children’s needs.
  • Making recommendations for further information and/or steps to be taken to facilitate or assist with the above.
  • Primarily the purpose of the report is to assist the Judge or Registrar to understand the issues specific to the family in framing interim orders and for case management moving forward.

The Child Impact Report process

The process commences when the order is made for the parties and children to attend with a Court Child Expert. The date for the appointment may be given by the Judge or Registrar either at the time the order is made, or notification may issue from the Court subsequently. The costs of the report are met by the Court.

Once ordered parties are required to attend and any failure to attend may result in delay, an adverse costs order being made against the non-compliant party or even an adverse inference as to a party’s attitude towards their responsibilities as a parent.
The process typically followed to produce the report is as follows:

  1. Each parent meets separately with the Court Child Expert for approximately an hour and a half or so. The Expert will have likely read the documents filed in the Court and ask questions regarding proposals, post separation parenting, difficulties and issues, family violence etc. It is not uncommon for these meetings to occur via a video link.
  2. After the parents have had their meetings, an appointment will be made for the child or children to meet with the Expert. Children may meet separately or together. The purpose of the meeting is for the Expert to offer to the children the opportunity to express their views, experiences, concerns and feelings regarding the separation, arrangements and other issues relevant to the proceeding. These interviews are conducted so as to present a safe and neutral environment for the children. While children have the opportunity to present their point of view there is no compulsion for them to speak if they don’t want to.

It is important to note that if there are issues of personal safety the Court should be made aware prior to engaging for the first meeting. Notification can be made by calling the national Enquiry Centre on 1300 352 000. The Court will work with an affected person to put in place a safety plan.

It is also important to note that the conversations between parties, children and the Expert are admissible as evidence in the proceeding. This is important to note because in some circumstances such as counselling or mediation the discussions are confidential and protected from disclosure. Also, the Court Child Expert is required to notify relevant authorities (Police or DOCS) in the event a disclosure is made during the process causing a reasonable suspicion that abuse or risk of abuse or harm has occurred.

After the Report has been completed

Once the Report has been written it will usually be sent to a party or their lawyer prior to the next Court event. The recommendations, observations and accounts form part of the evidence in the case and will likely be used to facilitate agreements between the parties or submissions if a defended hearing is required.

At an interim hearing there is not no automatic right to cross examine the Court Child Expert. However, a Senior Judicial Registrar or Judge does have the power to require the Expert to be available for cross examination if the case requires it. But this is not at all typical. There is no ability for a party to have a further discussion with the Expert after the report has issued. If the matter is to proceed beyond the interim stage to a full hearing (i.e. a Trial) it is likely a full Family Report will be ordered if issues addressed in the Child Impact report remain unresolved and in dispute.

Peter Hooper – Hooper and Mill Family Lawyers – We are family lawyers in Brisbane. Find us searching family lawyers Brisbane; divorce lawyers Brisbane; family lawyer Brisbane; Brisbane family lawyers; family law solicitors Brisbane; divorce lawyer Brisbane; family law lawyers Brisbane; divorce solicitors Brisbane; divorce lawyers in Brisbane; best divorce lawyer Brisbane.

Hooper Family Lawyers has been providing Family Law services to the Brisbane Bayside, South Brisbane and Greater Brisbane area since 1 July 2010. Like any business or project starting from scratch it has been a journey with many ups and downs. From working in my bedroom at home and worrying about whether the phone would ring today – to leasing my first commercial premises and employing my first solicitor and other support staff members, it has been an exciting, sometimes scary yet rewarding journey.

Now that journey has taken another twist, as of 1 July 2022 Hooper Family Lawyers is Hooper & Mill Family Lawyers, and it represents another milestone for me taking on my first business partner, long time former employee and friend, Mr Shaun Mill.

Shaun started with me in about late 2011 while he was studying his 4th year of law at QUT. At first, he was in the office to gain some experience and attend Court with me to see how things worked. Even back then I noticed he very quickly understood the principles behind what was going on, he had a common sense perspective, and he was genuinely interested in Family Law.

In 2012 Shaun went into his 5th year of his degrees and he continued doing work experience and odd jobs until he officially became a staff member in May 2012 – answering phones and helping out around the office.

In November 2012 Shaun graduated with a Bachelor Laws degree and Bachelor of Justice (Criminology) and after graduation he went straight in his PLT (Diploma of Practical Legal Training) through the College of Law in Brisbane.

He continued working at the firm and by now he was assisting me with legal work such as Court document production, subpoenas and correspondence. He also sat in with me for most new client appointments taking notes and gaining experience interviewing clients.

On 3 June 2013 Shaun was admitted into practice as a Queensland Legal Practitioner and I had the pleasure of moving his admission to practice before the Full Court in the Banco Court at Brisbane.

Shaun’s career continued to take off and in 2014 he married his long-term partner and high school sweetheart.

All work and no play would make Shaun an unhappy boy, so in 2016 he took extended leave enabling him and his wife to travel to Europe for a few months before returning to Australia and Hooper Family Lawyers.

Shaun and I have had many a conversation over the years about his career, opportunities available to him and how to best upgrade his skills and knowledge so refreshed from his travels he commenced his Masters Degree studies in Family Law in 2016, graduating in 2019.

While studying for his Masters and working, Shaun (with the assistance of his wife) managed to have his first daughter in 2018.

After graduating from his Masters he immediately enrolled in the first available Family Law Specialist Accreditation program which he successfully completed in 2019.

In 2020 he had his second daughter (again with the assistance of his wife) while taking over the running of the office at Victoria Point while I opened an office on the Gold Coast (you certainly can’t fault his work ethic).

What some people in legal circles might not know about Shaun is that in addition to being an exceptional family lawyer, he also an IT expert and he can build a computer from items commonly found in a garden shed (ok I exaggerated there but he does build computers).

As a confirmed luddite, I have terrible technology skills so you can imagine how much money he’s saved me in IT costs – including the time when he figured out why our Website was crashing a server when all the experts at the IT firm and digital marketing firm couldn’t work out what was happening.

As a more senior practitioner, I regularly ramble on to Shaun about how things were back in “the day”, and for the most part he usually appears to be listening. One of the things I have passed onto him is something my supervising solicitor told me back when I was doing Articles of Clerkship in the 1990’s. That is, that traditionally solicitors made agreements between each other with handshakes, not written contracts.

I know many lawyers would strongly disagree that a handshake is good business practice but for me it speaks to why I would be doing business with this person in the first place, that this person is someone I believe is of integrity, and that I trust my gut and judgement without reservation. Shaun Mill is without a doubt all these things and I am enormously proud of everything he has accomplished.

Congratulations mate it is well earned, and I look forward to working together into the future.

Update on Family Court and Federal Circuit Court reform

In May 2018 Peter Hooper’s blog referred to the Federal Government’s announcement of a significant shake up of the Australian Family Law Courts system.

The changes were due to occur on 1 January 2019 however delays have been encountered and at the current date the changes haven’t come into effect.

This article outlines the current structure and difference between the courts exercising jurisdiction pursuant to the Family Law Act 1975.

The current Family Law Courts structure

The Federal Circuit Court and Family Court are two separate divisions of the same court that operate under the Family Law Act. For example, applications for Parenting Orders can be made to both courts,[1] however there are guidelines as what type of parenting matters are filed in which court.

Family Court

A Protocol for the division of work between the two courts was released in April 2013. This protocol is not binding but it offers guidance to solicitors and judicial officers.[2]Using the example for parenting matters, this protocol advised that parenting matters involving the following issues should be filed in the Family Court of Australia or transferred to the Family Court of Australia (where the matter had already been filed).[3]

  1. International Child Abduction;
  2. International Relocation;
  3. Dispute as to whether the matter should be heard in Australia;
  4. Special Medical Procedures (e.g. gender reassignment);
  5. Where are party has contravened Family Court of Australia Orders and the contravention was within 12 months of the Orders being made.

    [1]Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) s 69H.
    [2]Morris &Rosetti [2017] FamCA 249.
    [3]Protocol for the division of work between the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court – 12 April 2013.

  6. Serious allegations of sexual abuse of a child, serious allegations of physical abuse of a child or serious controlling family violence;
  7. Complex questions of jurisdiction or law; and
  8. If the matter is likely to take in excess of four days of hearing time if the matter was to be heard.

In addition to the above, the Family Court of Australia has exclusive jurisdiction in relation to adoption.[4]

Further, if there are allegations of sexual abuse or physical abuse, the matter may be placed in the Magellan List. This is a list that is designed to fast-track proceedings that involve these allegations in accordance with the requirements of the Family Law Act.[5]

Transfer of Proceedings

If the matter has been filed in the Federal Circuit Court, the court has the power to transfer the proceedings to the Family Court.[6] In deciding whether to transfer the proceedings the court has regard to the following:

  1. Whether the matter involves questions of general importance, such that it would be desirable for there to be a decision of the Family Court on one or more points in issue;[7]
  2. Whether the matter is likely to be heard and determined at less cost and more convenience to the parties than if the proceedings were not transferred (including whether the proceedings would be heard earlier);[8]
  3. The wishes of the parties.[9]

The court can transfer the proceedings of its own initiative or by the request of one of the parties (made by application and supporting affidavit).[10]

The Federal Circuit Court is responsible for the bulk of cases while the Family Court hears more complex cases and is responsible for Appeals.

[4]Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) s 69H (4).
[5]Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) s 67ZBB.
[6]Federal Circuit Court of Australia Act 1999 (Cth) s 39 (1); Morris & Rosetti [2017] FamCA 249.
[7] Federal Circuit Court Rules 2001 r 8.02 (4) (a).
[8] Federal Circuit Court Rules 2001 r 8.02 (4) (b) and (c).
[9] Federal Circuit Court Rules 2001 r 8.02 (4) (e).
[10] Federal Circuit Court Rules 2001 r 8.02 (1) and (3).

The reform

It is envisaged the new Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia will be one Court with two Divisions, and the shared registry will continue for both divisions. Basically, division one will be what was the Federal Circuit Court and Division two will be made up of the Family Court Judges. Appeals will be sent to an appeal division of the Federal Court of Australia.

One set of Court Rules will apply obviating the necessity for situation currently with theFederal Circuit Court Rules 2001 and the Family Court Rules 2004 both operating.

Current progress of the reform

The third reading of the Federal Circuit Court and Family Court of Australia Bill 2018 in the House of Representatives was agreed to on 27 November 2018 with the second reading moved in the Senate on 3 December 2018.

How the new structure will operate in practice is still “wait and see” however it is hoped the reform will assist Families navigating their way through parenting matters and family law property settlement matters to obtain faster and more cost effective family law outcomes.

Shaun Mill

If your matter is going to court and you need assistance, contact Hooper Mill Family Lawyers at Victoria Point on (07) 3207 7663; or Hooper Mill Family Lawyers on the Gold Coast on (07) 5599 3026.

With divorce comes property settlement, the two go hand-in-hand. This procedure is stereotyped as a long, bitter feud between the parties over money, furniture, and other assets. But it doesn’t need to be this way.


What’s a property settlement?

A settlement occurs after a couple separates and begins divorce proceedings. Assets like properties, bank accounts, cars, and the like come under scrutiny. A settlement is possible without court involvement if the former partners can come to an agreement. To make the agreement legally binding, the family lawyer can put in an application for a court order.


How is property divided?

Property settlement and issues surrounding it fall under the Family Law Act. If there’s a dispute and it proceeds to court the following steps are taken:


  1. Identifying and valuing all property from the marriage/partnership
  2. Identifying and valuing the contributions each person has made to the property through income, homemaking, inheritances, etc.
  3. Factors about each party are considered. This includes their level of personal responsibility, their ability to look after others (particularly children), their ability to earn, their age and state of health
  4. A ruling is made


The idea that property is divided equally between former partners is a myth, one that your family lawyer will quickly dispel. As stated above, how much of the property settlement a party is entitled to depends on their overall contribution during the marriage and other factors post-divorce.


Is it possible to settle without involving the courts?

Your family lawyer will encourage it. If mediation is a possibility it’s the better option to take. Property settlement is easier when both sides, though separated, still have a good relationship. Issues like child custody, and deciding who gets the home and inheritances settle faster through mediation. Going through the courts takes time and money.


What if we weren’t married?

De facto partnerships, including same-sex partnerships, still fall under the Family Law Act after amendments were made in 2009. Former couples can apply for consent orders and spousal maintenance like any married couple. You must apply for consent orders and adjustments a year after the divorce was final (two years for de facto relationships).


My partner is trying to sell the house/other assets. What do I do?

Get legal advice and apply for an injunction immediately. This stops any sale in its tracks. If it’s too late to stop the sale, your lawyer can at least apply for the money to be ‘frozen’ until the settlement is final.


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Handling divorce at Christmas with the kids

6 of the best things you can do when divorce gets emotional

Sick of crying, feeling angry and upset, or just plain tired during your divorce proceedings? That’s not unusual. Even if the split is an amicable one, you’re parting ways with somebody you once loved and shared good times with. Taking care of ourselves often falls to the side at times like these and that’s actually detrimental to our health.

During a divorce we’re going through a loss, a trauma. And while there’s plenty of support from family and friends it’s good to ‘shake things up a bit’, rather than going to their homes and meet them for coffee every other day because you can’t think of much else to do. Here’s some things you can do to ‘drive yourself to distraction’ in the best way possible.


  • Dust off your hobbies

You stick to your hobbies because you enjoy them. They go on the backburner more often than not because life gets busy. But if there’s ever a time to get back into painting/cooking/pottery, it’s during a divorce. Here’s some places that can help facilitate your passion:



  • Download some podcasts

Podcasts are the new way to catch up with what’s going on in the world. There’s several for every genre; drama, news, socio-cultural and educational. These are some of the top ranked from various sites around the web.

Not everyone listens to a podcast idly; they’re  great for making time pass faster at work or on the walking trail. And that brings us to the next point.




  • Get back to the gym

Get those endorphin levels up and build those muscles! It’s true what they say, a strong body equals a strong mind. Hundreds of studies attribute a positive mindset to regular exercise. If you go to the gym already maybe try a different class instead of sticking to your regular routine. You’ll actually ‘shock’ your body when you do something new and who knows? You might actually like it.


  • Rewatch something you love

Everyone is guilty of binging on their favourite television show or some Netflix original series. But if it made you feel good, why not do it again? Make yourself a cup of tea and put on that Simpsons marathon.


  • Learn something new

MOOCs (massive open online courses) are popping up everywhere. They’re a great way to build on your old skills and learn some new ones. Most of them are free, though you can pay extra if you want a certificate. Courses are from genuine universities like RMIT, Harvard, Griffith, Australian National University, and the University of Queensland. Some of the best providers are below.


Separation and divorce proceedings can cause strong emotional reactions such as anger, hurt, fear and anxiety about the future. When emotions are running high it can be difficult to make the best choices.

The following are some tips to assist you with the emotional aspects of marriage breakdown.

  • Consider reconciliation

Divorcing isn’t always the final solution. Ask yourself whether the relationship can be salvaged. There are relationship counselling services you can access and participate in as a couple.

The Family Law Act 1975 requires that your family law solicitor provides you with prescribed material regarding the availability of reconciliation services. Prevention is better than cure, so ultimately reconciliation may be the best outcome for your family, emotionally and financially.

  • What if the marriage or relationship cannot be saved?

Often when people are at the point of obtaining advice from a family lawyer, the reality is the relationship can’t be saved.

If you find yourself separating, there are steps you can take to make the process a bit easier on yourself.

  • Don’t forget the self-care

Taking care of yourself makes you feel better in a difficult situation.   

It’s not always easy to do but getting enough sleep, eating healthy food, exercise and getting help, or information, will improve your situation and outlook. If you are struggling with anxiety or depression a useful place to start is with your general practitioner who can refer you to psychologists or counsellors.

Your lawyer can help to demystify the legal process, and provide you with a road map for resolution leading to the next phase of your life.

Something simple, like your favourite meal, is a great form of self-care

Something simple, like your favourite meal, is a great form of self-care

  • Flexibility

If you’re negotiating property settlement or children’s time, it is important to consider keeping an open mind and not become “positioned”.

Becoming positioned is when you draw lines in the sand, create “bottom lines” and say things like “my way or the highway”.

Often in negotiations or mediation, it is more useful to consider the interests of everyone involved (including children), the costs involved in litigation (including the non-financial, emotional cost of a protracted legal fight) and the time you will spend dealing with lawyers and Courts that you could be spending getting on with your life.

  • Try not to “mirror” hostile behaviour

Often separation isn’t amicable. You may find yourself confronted with aggressive, angry and unreasonable behaviour.

If you’re also angry it can be a natural reaction to respond in kind. This situation is rarely helpful and tends to escalate conflict.  Conflict in family law matters tends to make resolutions more difficult to achieve and can be very emotionally harmful to children caught up in the middle of such a dispute between their parents.

You can’t control what your ex-partner is doing but you can control yourself, and choose not to mirror destructive behaviours. Often when one party refuses to “mirror” aggression, a de-escalation will occur. Family violence of course should not be tolerated in any context. If you or a family member is confronted by family violence or threats of family violence you should contact police or discuss options for your safety with your lawyer.

  • Get proper advice

You may find after separation you start receiving lots of advice from family and friends about your “legal rights”. While they generally mean well, be wary of the back yard or BBQ advice.

Family law is complex and while someone may know someone with a situation similar to yours, family law outcomes will depend on many different factors unique to individual circumstances. Early advice from a family law solicitor will assist you understand what you need to do, and will likely make you feel better.

In my experience, one of the most common types of remarks people make leaving my office after an initial attendance for advice is “thank you, I feel much better now”.

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