How Do I Get a Needs of the Child Assessment?

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Needs of the child assessments

Under s. 37(1) of the Family Law Act, when the court or the parties are making orders and agreements about 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 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 childA person who is younger than the legal age of majority, 19 in British Columbia. See "age of majority.", the parties and the court must consider the best interests of the child only. 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 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.

These reports, called needs of the child assessments, were formerly known as "section fifteen 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" under the old Family Relations Act. They can be very helpful in resolving a dispute about the care of children and the court will usually give a great deal of weight to the assessor's opinionIn law, a lawyer's advice to his or her client; a lawyer's analysis of a legal problem; the views of an expert as to a matter at issue in an action. See "expert evidence.".

Picking the assessor

Needs of the child assessments are routinely prepared by family justice counsellors, social workers, registered clinical counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists.

Family justice counsellors are employees of the Ministry of Justice based in registries of the Provincial CourtA court established and staffed by the provincial government, which includes Small Claims Court, Youth Court and Family Court. The Provincial Court is the lowest level of court in British Columbia and is restricted in the sorts of matters it can deal with. Small Claims Court, for example, cannot deal with claims larger than $25,000, and Family Court cannot deal with the division of family property or matters under the ''Divorce Act''. See "judge" and "jurisdiction.". Their reports are free, but because there is such a high demand for these reports and there are so few family justice counsellors who are trained to prepare them, the delay from requesting a report to getting it done might be anywhere from eight to 14 months.

In general, private reports prepared by social works and mental health professionals can be done faster, but they come at a cost. The reports prepared by psychologists typically cost between $6,000 and $10,000.

Arranging for the assessment

The parties can agree that a needs of the child assessment will be prepared, but if they can't agree, an application can be made to court for an 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." that an assessment be prepared. The order will usually specify exactly who is being retained to prepare the report and can also specify how the report will be paid for.

Once the assessment is ordered or agreed upon, either party can 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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