Court Reports | Hearing the voice of the child in family law cases
Section 47 reports are intended to provide the court with information, in writing, about anything affecting the welfare of someone a family law case is about – they are usually about the children.
Section 47 reports can be ordered by the courtdirectly or following an application by one of the parties to the case, if the court agrees. For example, the solicitor or barrister for one of the parents may apply for a Section 47 report to be done.
Section 47 reports can only be ordered in the Circuit Court.
Section 47 reports are often carried out by child psychologists, other professionals, as authorised by the court, may also carry out the reports. However, there are no regulations setting out who can conduct Section 47 reports, neither are there any minimum qualifications required.
It is essential that the parties to the case are satisfied that the person undertaking this work with their child, or children, is appropriately qualified to do it. The legislation sets out that a copy of the report shall be given to each of the parties (usually through their solicitors).
There is a fee for Section 47 reports, and the fee is paid by the parties to the proceedings. The court will decide how much each party pays.
The court may call the author of the report to court as a witness. If this happens the parties to the case cover the expenses of the author of the report.
Purpose of Section 47 Reports in Family Law Cases
These reports try to establish what is in the best interest of the child andare written by professionals deemed to be experts.
The experts meet with the parents/guardians, and with the child or children. They will try to find out from the child what the child would like to happen about custody and access. They provide a professional opinion, based on what they think is in the child’s best interest, taking the child’s views into account. They usually make recommendations in their report.
The judge takes the report into account in coming to a decision in the case, but is not obliged to follow any recommendations made. The report is one piece of information in the case. The expert author of the report ordered by the court may be required to attend as a witness in the case.
It is important to note that the views expressed by the child will not always decide the case. In cases where the children are of the requisite age and maturity, the court must hear the views of the child before making judgements, but ultimately the court’s main role is to decide what is in the child’s best interest.