Private Custody/Access Assessments
The purpose of an assessment is to obtain a professional’s observations and opinions about a family’s situation and their recommendations regarding post-separation custody/access arrangements. A private assessor can be appointed with the consent of both parties or by court order. The assessor’s fees will vary based on his or her professional background. If the parties don’t agree about who should pay the assessor’s fees, the court can order one or both of them to pay these costs.
Custody/access assessors are psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists or mental health professionals. When hiring an assessor, you should look for an experienced professional who has received appropriate training. The assessor should also be a member of the governing body for his or her profession. The organizations that govern psychologists, social workers and psychiatrists in Ontario are:
- College of Psychologists of Ontario
- Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers
- College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario
During an assessment, the assessor will interview the parents and the children individually and will usually observe each parent with the children. The assessor will also want to contact some third parties who are involved with the family. This may include other family members, new partners, teachers or medical professionals.
Once the assessment is complete, the assessor prepares a report that includes his or her recommendations. The recommendations may address how decisions about the children should be made, as well as where they should live and the time that they should spend with each parent. They may also address particular issues that the parties have not agreed upon (for example which school a child should attend).
If the parents are unable to come to an agreement about how the custody/access issues will be resolved, one or both parents may choose to file the report as evidence in the custody/access dispute.