Parents living apart or separating may be unable to agree on who should have custody of their children, or on the degree of contact the children should have with each parent. They may differ in their belief as to what is best for the child, or, they may be unable to agree because they are angry with each other. An assessment may be ordered if it is not clear what the custody or access arrangements should be. After receipt of all pertinent informations, appointments will then be set with parents and children. Assessors are duty bound to provide recommendations to the Court, respecting what is in the best interests of the children.
When conducting an assessment factors that I take into consideration are:
- The family, marital and parenting background;
- Speak to the parents about their views on their children’s needs and with the parenting arrangements;
- Observe the children with each parent;
- A copy of the pleadings brief and disclosure of all records from any agency, physician, CAS, or hospital that has had involvement with the family is reviewed;
- Interview teachers, doctors, new partners, friends and relatives;
- Speak to the child, depending on the child’s age; and
- Look into other matters
At the end of the assessment, a comprehensive assessment report is composed and includes a detailed family history and discussion based upon the data and concludes with detailed recommendations. The report is provided to the parents and their lawyers. A disclosure meeting may be called at which time the parents, their lawyers and myself are present to discuss the report’s recommendations. It is hoped that they will then be able to negotiate a settlement on custody and access arrangements.
If the parents cannot reach an agreement, a trial may occur. The assessment may be used and I may be called as a witness. I am a qualified expert in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
On average, 30 to 35 hours are required to complete custody / access assessments (Paper review, 3 – 5 hrs.; interviews, 10 -12 hrs.; collateral contact, 3 – 5 hrs.; report preparation, 8 – 10 hrs.; disclosure, 1-3 hrs.). The cost of assessments is based on an hourly fee of $200.00 per hour . A retainer is required prior to commencing the assessment. In the event the actual cost of the assessment is less than the retainer, then a refund will be issued. If the cost is more than the retainer, then more funds will be required prior to the completion of the assessment process.
The lawyers or parties must determine prior to referral how the cost will be shared. Cheque(s), cash or credit card must be provided and no action will be taken on the file until funds are cleared.
Legal Aid is accepted in some cases and must be discussed in advance.
Assuming cooperation from the parties, assessments are generally completed within 6 to 10 weeks after clearing of the retainer cheque and receipt of all necessary reports.
To arrange a Custody Access Assessment, or for more information, call 416-512-6356 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.