About the Family Law Week blog

The Family Law Week Blog is a companion site to Family Law Week. It complements the news, cases and articles published on Family Law Week with additional comment and coverage of the wider aspects of family law.

The Blog is edited by Jacqui Gilliatt, of 4 Brick Court and Lucy Reed, of St Johns Chambers.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Possible Questions for Clinical Psychologist

If you are ever allowed to instruct one that is!

Please provide an individual psychological profile of X.

Please comment on the quality of relationship and level of attachment between the child/ren and the parent(s).

Please say whether there is any aspect of the parent(s) psychological profile which in your view has any bearing on their ability to parent a child.

Please comment on the ability of the parent(s) to cope with stress.

In the event that you consider either or both of the parents have a psychological provide which affects their ability to care for a child, please comment on that parent's ability to change, the timescale within such change could be achieved and whether in your opinion that timescale is compatible with the child/ren's long-term needs?

Please comment on the state/ status of the parents' relationship with each other.

Please comment on the commitment of X to remain separated from Y.

Please comment on whether it would be advisable for there to be a separate psychiatric assessment of either parent or the children.

Click for full draft letter of instruction in word.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Possible questions to child mental health professional or Paediatrician (all from FJC)

The children

Please describe the child(dren)’s current health, development and functioning (according to your area of expertise) and identify the nature of any significant changes which have occurred

Attachment organisation
Social / peer / sibling relationships
Cognitive / educational
Growth, eating, sleep
Non-organic physical problems (including wetting & soiling)
Paediatric conditions

Please comment on the likely explanation for / aetiology of the child(ren)’s problems / difficulties / injuries

History / experiences (including intrauterine influences and abuse and neglect)
Genetic / innate / developmental difficulties
Paediatric / psychiatric disorders

Please provide a prognosis and risk if the difficulties you identify are not addressed.

Please describe the child(ren)’s needs in the light of the above

Nature of care-giving

In the short and long-term (subject, where appropriate, to further assessment later)

The parents / primary care-givers

Please describe the factors and mechanisms which would explain the parents’ (or primary care-givers’) harmful or neglectful interactions with the children (if relevant).

What interventions have been tried and what has been the result?

Please assess the ability of the parents or primary care-givers to fulfil the children’s identified needs.

What other assessments of the parents or primary care-givers are indicated?

Adult mental health assessment
Forensic risk assessment
Physical assessment
Cognitive assessment

What if anything is needed to assist the parents or primary care-givers now, within the child(ren)’s timescales, and what is the prognosis for change?

Parenting work
Treatment / therapy


Please consider the alternative possibilities for the fulfilment of the child(ren)’s needs.

What sort of placement?

Contact arrangements?

Please consider the advantages, disadvantages and implications of each for the children.

Click for a full draft letter of instruction in word.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Possible Questions to Child & Family Psychiatrist

Please undertake a general family assessment dealing in particular with:-

a) the interaction, attachment and bonding between the parents and each of the children;
b) the interaction, attachment and bonding between the grandparents and each of the children;
c) the degree of attachment between each child and his or her siblings.

To what extent do you consider the parents or either of them understand the children's emotional and developmental needs?

To what extent do you consider the parents or either of them are able to meet the children's needs?

Do you consider it to be in the child/ren's best interests that their contact with either or both parents(s) should be supervised? If so, please explain why.

Can you make recommendations as to the frequency and nature of contact in future between the child/ren and the parents or inter-sibling or other relative contact?


Please comment on the value of contact for each child with each family member. Comment on the appropriate level of future contact between the children and family members.

What changes and / or improvements in the parents' individual or collective parenting approaches towards their children would need to be achieved to reduce or eliminate any risks identified?

What treatment, therapy or other support would be appropriate to enable the parent(s) to make any necessary changes or improvements?

What timescale would be needed for any treatment, therapy or other support?

What are the prospects of success for any treatment, therapy or other support identified as necessary?

Please indicate the positive and negative features which have influenced your opinion on the prospects of success?

What is your assessment of the child/ren's emotional, social and behavioural development?

Is there any likelihood of further attempts at self-harm by the child in future?

Can you comment on the benefits or disadvantages of the child being placed with his / her siblings and the effect on them all of being separately placed?

What therapeutic or other help does the child need?

Please comment on the suitability of the present placements and all the parties' different proposed future placements.

Click for a full draft letter of instruction in word.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Possible Questions to Adult Psychiatrists

Do you consider X to be suffering from any psychological or psychiatric condition?

Does X have – whether in his / her history or presentation – a mental illness / disorder (including substance abuse) or other psychological or emotional difficulty and, if so, what is the diagnosis? (FJC)

If the answer to the above is yes, are there any features of either the mental illness or psychological / emotional difficulty or personality disorder which could be associated with risk to others, based on the available evidence base (whether published studies or evidence from clinical experience)? (FJC)

What are the experiences / antecedents / aetiology which would explain his / her difficulties, if any (taking into account any available evidence base or other clinical experience)? (FJC)

Specifically is X suffering from or has X suffered in the past from [eg depression or post natal depression]? If so please set out any relevant history giving detail of past and present treatment.

If you consider X to be suffering from any psychological or psychiatric condition can you comment on the impact of this on X's parenting abilities either currently or in the past?

How do any / all of the above (and their current treatment if applicable) affect his / her functioning, including interpersonal relationships? (FJC)

If you consider X to be suffering from any psychological or psychiatric condition can you indicate what treatment, therapy or support might be indicated? What is the likely duration of such treatment?

What is the capacity of X to participate in / partake of the treatment / therapy? (FJC)

Can you provide any information about local resources from which treatment could be sought?

If possible please advise as to the prognosis for recovery or relapse and what effect relapse would have on X's ability to parent.

Are you able to indicate the prognosis for, timescales for achieving and likely durability of, change? (FJC)

What other factors might indicate positive change? (FJC)

(FJC means taken from the Family Justice Council's draft questions)

Click for a full draft letter of instruction in word.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Back from the Dead

Sorry dear readers - I lost my internet mojo for a while there and have not been posting. Various things have re-inspired me but I realise only time will tell you whether I keep it up. But this time I have a specific plan with scheduled dates. I have also set up a new website called Children in Law thanks to the super whizzy wix software. I will be adding articles to it over the next few weeks, starting with updated versions of previously published articles. The first one up is a draft letter of instruction to experts which is updated to take account of the new Practice Directions etc. I will be posting the questions to specific types of experts on the blog too.