How Do I Get a Needs of the Child Assessment?

From Clicklaw Wikibooks

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 childA person who is younger than the legal age of majority, 19 in British Columbia. See "age of majority."?" Obviously, disagreements can arise around what's best when it comes to guardianship, parenting arrangementsA term under the ''Family Law Act'' which describes the arrangements for parental responsibilities and parenting time among guardians, made in an order or agreement. "Parenting arrangements" does not include contact. See "contact," "guardian," "parental responsibilities" and "parenting time.", or who has contactA term under the ''Family Law Act'' that describes the visitation rights of a person who is not a guardian with a child. Contact may be provided by court order or by the agreement among the child's guardians who have parental responsibility for determining contact. See "guardian" and "parental responsibilities." 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 partyA person named in a court proceeding or joined to a proceeding who is neither the claimant nor the respondent. A third party may be joined to a proceeding where the respondent believes that the person has or shares some responsibility for the cause of action. See "action," "cause of action" and "party." is needed to provide objectivity. Under s. 211, the court can appoint a person to assess one or more of:

  1. the needs of a child in relation to a family law dispute,
  2. the views of a child in relation to a family law dispute, or
  3. the ability and willingness of a partyIn law, a person named as an applicant, claimant, respondent or third party in a court proceeding; someone asserting a claim in a court proceeding or against whom a claim has been brought. See "action" and "litigant." 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 custodyIn family law, an antiquated term used by the ''Divorce Act'' to describe the right to possess a child and make parenting decisions concerning the child's health, welfare and upbringing. See "access." and accessUnder the ''Divorce Act'', the schedule of a parent's time with his or her children under an order or agreement. Access usually refers to the schedule of the parent with the least time with the child. See "custody." 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 orderA mandatory direction of the court, binding and enforceable upon the parties to a court proceeding. An "interim order" is a temporary order made following the hearing of an interim application. A "final order" is a permanent order, made following the trial of the court proceeding or the parties' settlement, following which the only recourse open to a dissatisfied party is to appeal. See "appeal," "consent order," "decision" and "declaration.". Once the Family Justice Report Service receives both a copy of the court order and the referral form from the court registryA central office, located in each judicial district, at which the court files for each court proceeding in that district are maintained, and at which legal documents can be filed, searched, and reviewed., 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.

Private reports

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 lawyerA person licensed to practice law in a particular jurisdiction. See "barrister and solicitor.", 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:

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 judgeA person appointed by the federal or provincial governments to manage and decide court proceedings in an impartial manner, independent of influence by the parties, the government or agents of the government. The decisions of a judge are binding upon the parties to the proceeding, and are subject to appeal. who you think should prepare the report, the anticipated costsA calculation of the allowable legal expenses of a party to a court proceeding, as determined by the Supreme Court Family Rules. The party who is most successful in a court proceeding is usually awarded their "costs" of the proceeding. See "account, "bill of costs," "certificate of costs," and "lawyer's fees." 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.

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