Why Are Assessments Done?
When parents are unable to agree about parenting arrangements, and/or when there are questions regarding the parenting capacity of one or both parents, an assessment may be necessary. Parents can agree to undergo a Parenting Plan Assessment, or the court may order an assessment. The purpose is to evaluate the needs of the children and each parent’s respective abilities to meet those needs. The assessment report may assist the court in making an order regarding parenting arrangements for children, or it may assist the parents in reaching an agreement.
Who Are The Assessors?
Parenting Plan assessors are mental health professionals (e.g. social workers, psychologists), who have expertise in assessment procedures, child and adult mental health issues, child and adult divorce issues, child development as well as being knowledgeable regarding the applicable law and court procedures. Assessors follow established professional standards and guidelines, as set by professional associations.
What Happens In An Assessment?
The following steps are usually involved in conducting an assessment; however, the procedure may be varied based on the needs of any specific case.
- Separate interviews with each parent (may involve 1-3 interviews)
- Independent interviews with each child
- Home visits with children and each parent at the discretion of the assessor
- Interviews with other relevant parties, such as new partners
- Collateral contacts, including telephone interviews and obtaining relevant records
- Review of all documents, interview notes, collateral information
- Preparation of written report
In some cases, the assessor may refer clients for a consultation regarding a specific issue, such as when the questions being raised involve possible substance abuse and/or significant mental health concerns involving one or both parents, or specific medical/psychological conditions involving a parent or child.
The results of any consultation are considered in preparation of the assessment report. A request for consultation is made only in exceptional circumstances where, in the opinion of the assessor, additional information is necessary for a full understanding of the needs of the children and the abilities of the parents to meet those needs.
How Much Does An Assessment Cost?
Cases vary in complexity, the number of interviews and collateral contacts, and disbursement costs. On average, assessments require 30-40 hours, paid at the assessor’s hourly rate. Parents are required to provide a retainer in advance. Parents usually share the cost of the assessment based on a cost-sharing formula determined by the parents or by the court.
What Happens After The Assessment?
The assessor may choose to have a meeting with the parties and their lawyers, where their findings and recommendations are disclosed. The parties, with the assistance of their lawyers and the assessor, may be able to settle at this point. If no agreement is reached, lawyers may file the assessor’s report with the court.