The break down of a marriage and divorce can indeed be a stress inducing endeavour that may give rise to emotional and mental problems for the parties involved, this includes the spouses, any one (or both) of whom may be seeking the divorce as well as any and all children involved. In Canada the paramount, primary or in fact sole consideration of the Court during divorce proceedings when related to the question of custody is the ‘best interest of the child(ren)’. Part and parcel of this duty to preserve and uphold the ‘best interest of the children’, is to shelter children as much as possible from the adversarial setting of the court.
Therefore, in certain circumstances, you may want upon discussing it first with your Custody Lawyer to ask for an assessment. An assessment is a detailed review of your family situation by a person such as a social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist. The person carrying out the assessment is known as the assessor. The assessor is generally an impartial third party whose role is to assist the parties to negotiate an agreement regarding custody to such an extent that is considered feasible in the circumstances, and where agreement is not possible, to prepare a report with recommendations as to a parenting plan that is in the ‘best interest of the children’.
There is generally a 9-step procedure followed in a custody assessment:
- The assessor meets the counsel of the parties in order to;
- Allow for the counsels to explain which factors they feel are significant
- Ask counsels to provide affidavits, notices of motion, transcripts of evidence, professional reports and any other relevant documents
- The assessor meets with the parties together in order to;
- Make the parents aware that the assessors role is an impartial, objective one in carrying out the assessment functions
- And also make the parents aware that the primary concern of the assessor is to represent the ‘best interest of the child(ren)’.
- The assessor meets with each parent individually in order to;
- Deduce each parent’s plan of care related to the children
- Determine each parent’s needs, interests, concerns and goals related to their parenting plan
- Assess and screen for any abuse.
- The assessor meets with the child(ren) individually, and along with the parents as well in order to;
- Determine suggestions, and priorities from the child(ren)’s perspective.
- Assess the child(ren)’s temperament, maturity and ability to change
- Assess and screen for any abuse
- The assessor meets with any other significant adults involved in a caretaking role such as grand-parents or any new or common-law spouses
- The assessor requests any relevant information from relevant sources such as schools, doctors and mental health professionals etc.
- The assessor conducts then conducts home visits in order to;
- Observe the children interacting with each parent or any new partners
- Assess and observe the neighbourhood setting of the new homes
- Assess and observe the factors such as the standard of cleanliness, nutrition and disciplinary limits
- The assessor arranges for psychological testing of the children and adults (if deemed necessary)
- Upon carrying out the above functions the assessor then prepares an assessment report which is submitted to the Courts.
It is recommended that in order for the parties to a divorce proceeding to best reflect their positions during the assessment process the services of a reputable Custody lawyer or firm are obtained.
For more information on Custody please contact one of our experienced Family Lawyers at MEHDI AU LLP today.
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