How Do I Get a Needs of the Child Assessment?

From Clicklaw Wikibooks

Needs of the child assessments[edit]

Under section 37(1) of the Family Law Act, when the court or the parties are making orders or agreements about guardianship, parenting arrangements, or contact with a child, the parties and the court must consider the best interests of the child only. Disagreements often arise around what's best when it comes to these decisions. In some cases, it can help to get the opinion of a neutral third party. Under section 211 of the act, the court can appoint a person, typically a psychologist, clinical counsellor, or social worker, 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.

The professional appointed to prepare the report will usually: interview the child's parents or guardians; interview the children, depending on their age and maturity; watch each parent or guardian interacting with and parenting the children; administer personality and parenting tests to the parents; read any reports that are available about the children's medical and mental health; and, interview a few people who know the family and the children. What the professional actually does will depend on the circumstances of the family and the sort of report they have been asked to write.

The report the professional will prepare is called a needs of the child assessment, and will provide a summary of what the professional has learned about the family, as well as the professional's opinion about what is in the best interests of the children. (You might also hear these reports called section 211 reports. Under the old Family Relations Act, these reports were called section 15 reports or custody and access reports.) These reports are intended to be neutral and prepared without bias. They are evaluative because the professional is providing their expert opinion about the parents or guardians, the children, and the arrangements that are best for the children.

Needs of the child assessments can be very helpful in resolving a dispute about the care of children. The court will usually give a great deal of weight to the assessor's opinion and recommendations.

Picking the assessor[edit]

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

Family justice counsellor reports[edit]

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 between 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[edit]

As an alternative, you can pay for a report to be prepared by a social worker, clinical counsellor, or psychologist. These can generally be done much faster, but they come at a higher cost. The fees for reports prepared by psychologists typically range between $5,000 and $20,000, depending on the number of children involved, where the children and the parents or guardians live, and the amount of work that needs to be done.

To find a professional to prepare a needs of the child assessment, you can:

  • ask for a referral from a psychologist or counsellor you know,
  • get a recommendation from your lawyer,
  • read through some of these cases on CanLII which contain the names of professionals who have prepared these reports for court, or
  • contact the Canadian Register of Health Service Psychologists for a referral.

Arranging for the assessment[edit]

The parties can agree that a needs of the child assessment will be prepared. They then need to pick someone to prepare it.

If they can't agree, either party can apply 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 before going to court so that you can tell the judge what kind of assessment you want, who you think should prepare it, how much the cost will be, and when it can be completed. The order will usually specify who is being retained to prepare the assessment as well as how the assessment 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.

This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Megan Ellis, QC, June 11, 2019.

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Normally referred to as the "Supreme Court of British Columbia," this court hears most court proceedings in this province. The Supreme Court is a court of inherent jurisdiction and is subject to no limits on the sorts of claims it can hear or on the sorts of orders it can make. Decisions of the Provincial Court are appealed to the Supreme Court; decisions of the Supreme Court are appealed to the Court of Appeal. See "Court of Appeal," "jurisdiction," "Provincial Court," and "Supreme Court of Canada."

A 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. It is, however, the most accessible of the two trial courts and no fees are charged to begin or defend a family court proceeding. The Family Court of the Provincial Court cannot deal with the division of family property or matters under the Divorce Act. See "judge" and "jurisdiction."

A 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."

A 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."

A person who is younger than the legal age of majority, 19 in British Columbia. See "age of majority."

A 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."

Intentionally doing a thing; a law passed by a government, also called "legislation" or a "statute." See "regulations."

In 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."

In family law, the natural or adoptive father or mother of a child; may also include stepparents, depending on the circumstances and the applicable legislation; may include the donors of eggs or sperm and surrogate mothers, depending on the circumstances and the terms of any assisted reproduction agreement. See "adoptive parent," "natural parent," and "stepparent."

In 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."

Under the Divorce Act, the schedule of a parent's time with their children under an order or agreement. Access usually refers to the schedule of the parent with the least amount of time with the child. See "custody."

A 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."

A 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.

In law, to formally deliver documents to a person in a manner that complies with the applicable rules of court. Service may be ordinary (mailed or delivered to a litigant's address for service), personal (hand-delivered to a person), or substituted (performed in a way other than the rules normally require). See "address for delivery," "ordinary service," "personal service," and "substituted service."

In law, a phrase used to indicate secondary relief or a secondary ground of relief in a claim or application, usually presented as an option to the primary relief or primary ground of relief. For example, "I'd like to have all of the house but, in the alternative, I'll take half." See “motion," “pleadings," and “relief."

A person licensed to practice law in a particular jurisdiction. See "barrister and solicitor."

A person appointed by the federal or provincial government 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, subject to appeal.

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