How Do I Get a Needs of the Child Assessment?
Needs of the child assessments
Where decisions about children are concerned, the question for parents and courts is "What is in the best interests of the child?" Obviously, disagreements can arise around what's best when it comes to guardianship, parenting arrangements, or who has contact with a child. Section 37(2) of the Family Law act contains more specifics about the factors this consideration involves. In some cases, a neutral third party is needed to provide objectivity. Under s. 211, the court can appoint a person to assess one or more of:
- the needs of a child in relation to a family law dispute,
- the views of a child in relation to a family law dispute, or
- the ability and willingness of a party to a family law dispute to satisfy the needs of a child.
Reports of the first kind are called needs of the child assessments. You might also hear them called section 211 reports. Under the old Family Relations Act the equivalent reports were called section 15 reports or custody and access reports. These reports are intended to be neutral and prepared without bias. They can be very helpful in resolving a dispute about the care of children. A court will usually give a great deal of weight to the assessor's opinion and recommendations.
Picking the assessor
Needs of the child assessments are routinely prepared by family justice counsellors, social workers, registered clinical counsellors, and psychologists.
Family justice counsellor reports
Family justice counsellors are public employees. Their reports are free as part of the Family Justice Report Service, but they are in very high demand and there is usually a long delay. The only way to be referred to the service is by court order. Once the Family Justice Report Service receives both a copy of the court order and the referral form from the court registry, the report will be placed on a list for assignment to a family justice counsellor.
Not all family justice counsellors are trained to prepare needs of the child asssessments, and the delay from requesting a report to getting it done might be up to a year. You can call the Family Justice Report Service at 604 851-7059 or find a Family Justice Centre near you to learn more about the service.
A common alternative is private reports prepared by qualified psychologists. These can generally be done much faster, but they come at a high cost. The fees for reports prepared by psychologists typically range between $8,000 and $16,000, depending on the number of children involved, and the amount of work that needs to be done.
For private reports:
- If you have a counsellor, ask for a referral,
- If you have access to a lawyer, ask them to recommend someone, or
- Search for and read through cases from BC courts to see whose reports have been used in court (here is a link to some search results using the CanLII website: http://bit.ly/2v1Hts2).
Arranging for the assessment
The parties can agree that a needs of the child assessment will be prepared, and agree who should do the assessment, but if they can't agree, an application can be made to court for an order that an assessment be prepared. If you have to apply to court for such an order, make sure that you do your homework beforehand. You want to be able to tell the judge who you think should prepare the report, the anticipated costs involved, and the availability of the report writer. The order will usually specify who is being retained to prepare the report. The order can also specify how the report will be paid for.
Once an assessment is ordered or agreed to, you should get in touch with the person who will be performing the assessment. The assessor will tell you what happens next, when the interviewing process will begin, and when the completed assessment will likely be ready.
You can find more information about needs of the child assessments in the chapter Children in Family Law Matters.
|The above was last reviewed for legal accuracy by Inga Phillips, July 14, 2017.|
|JP Boyd on Family Law © John-Paul Boyd and Courthouse Libraries BC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada Licence.|