Judges of the court may order that an assessment be completed in exceptional circumstances if parties have children and professional information is needed to help the judge decide what kind of parenting arrangements will be in the child’s best interests. Assessments are carried out by professionals who are court-appointed. The assessor will be asked to prepare a detailed written report and make recommendations about the parenting arrangements and other steps that might need to be taken by parents that will benefit the child.
There are different types of assessments. What type of assessment is ordered will depend on the facts of the case and the needs of the parties and the child. Some assessments may be a combination of the various types explained below. A lawyer can help you decide what might be appropriate for your case.
- In a child’s wishes assessment, the child or children are interviewed by a professional to determine their preferences in parenting arrangements. The assessor will make sure that the child has not been coached or persuaded by anyone or anything to make a certain decision, and will ensure that the child is mature enough to have a say in the proceedings.
- In custody and access assessments, the assessor carries out home studies and speaks with witnesses and other professionals to make recommendations about what parenting arrangements or other interventions are best for the child.
- Access assessments are used to make recommendations about what arrangements are best for the children when having contact with the parent that they do not live with. A home study will be conducted.
- In parental capacity assessments, the assessor must look at whether or not one or both of the parents are able to safely parent the child and what interventions might be used to help the parents learn new skills to be able to parent better. Recommendations about the custody and access arrangements will be made and home studies will be conducted.
- In psychological assessments, the assessor makes parenting and/or access recommendations, but will also give information about whether there are psychological issues involving a parent or child that could affect the parenting arrangements. A psychologist or psychiatrist will be asked to perform special testing as part of their work and will make recommendations around parenting and possible therapy that are in the child’s best interests.
One of the parties will need to file a Notice of Motion requesting that an assessment be carried out in most cases. A judge may also order an assessment if the judge believes it to be necessary, even if the parents do not ask for it. The parties will be contacted to help decide what assessor is chosen to do the assessment, whenever possible. The parties may have to pay a fee for the assessment, depending on how much money they earn. These are based on a sliding scale and the type of assessment being completed. The total fees that may be paid by all parties (and the Department of Justice) range from $2500 to $6000, but may be less if it is a child’s wishes assessment only. Contact a court officer and a lawyer if you need more information.