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.
Voice of the child reports (also known as child’s wishes or preferences assessments) are one way to give children a chance to be heard in family law proceedings. They are written reports prepared by a professional who interviews the child. They are usually ordered by a judge. These reports give information about the child’s views and preferences around parenting issues. Click here for more information on voice of the child reports.
In decision-making responsibility and parenting time 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.
Parenting time 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 decision-making responsibility and parenting 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.
In most cases, one of the parties will need to file a Notice of Motion requesting that an assessment be carried out. A judge may also order an assessment if they believe 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. The fees 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. The fees may be less if it is a child’s wishes assessment only. Contact a court officer or a lawyer if you need more information.