03 December 2009

Section 15 Reports

Important Update: The Family Law Act came into force in March 2013 and replaced the Family Relations Act, which is the subject of this post. The parts of the old act that talked about custody and access reports are now found at s. 211 of the new act, and those reports are now called "section 211 assessments" or "needs of the child assessments." I have added a brief comment on the new act to the end of this post.

"Custody and access reports," "custody assessments" and "section fifteen reports" are some of the names given to reports prepared pursuant to s. 15 of the Family Relations Act. The purpose and scope of these reports can be a bit confusing, because they seem to be treated differently in the Provincial Court and the Supreme Court, because different sorts of people prepare them, and because the scope of s. 15 is really quite broad.

The Family Relations Act

Section 15 says, in part, this:
In a proceeding under this Act, the court may, on application, including an application made without notice to any other person, direct an investigation into a family matter by a person who
(a) has had no previous connection with the parties to the proceeding or to whom each party consents, and
(b) is a family counsellor, social worker or other person approved by the court for the purpose.
(2) A person directed to carry out an investigation under subsection (1) must report the results of the investigation in the manner that the court directs.
I've highlighted the bits that are particularly important for this discussion. Essentially, s. 15 says that the court can order that a report on any family issue be prepared by any person, in whatever manner the court directs, and the court can make an order that a report be prepared on its own initiative or on the application of a party.

Most of the time, people want a s. 15 report for the assessor's recommendations about things like where the children should live most of the time and the optimum parenting schedule. It can happen, however, that people want the assessor to look at a specific problem such as a parent's drinking, mental instability, drug use or personality disorder, and comment on how the issue affects the person's capacity to parent.

Provincial Court

Most of the time, s. 15 reports prepared in matters before the Provincial Court are prepared by family justice counsellors, employees of the Provincial Court who have some training in conducting custody and access assessments, and usually have a background in social work or psychology.

These reports are free but they can take a terribly long time to complete, anywhere from six months to one year or more, depending on which courthouse the parties are at. (Surrey and Vancouver are notoriously overburdened courts.) A private psychologist or psychiatrist could probably get the assessment done faster, but they charge for their work and I'd expect that the cost would start at about $3,000 and go up to $9,000 or more, depending on the circumstances and the scope of the report.

The court can order that a s. 15 report be prepared at the first appearance, at any other appearance before trial and at a family case conference. The court generally won't order s. 15 reports at trial... by then it's too late, and ordering the report would only serve to delay the trial.

Supreme Court

Section 15 reports prepared for the Supreme Court are usually done by private psychologists and psychiatrists. Although they come at a pretty significant cost, they can usually be prepared within three to six months, depending on the issues.

The court can order that a s. 15 report be prepared at a judicial case conference or at any application brought before trial. The court will not order the preparation of a s. 15 report at or on the brink of trial.

Rules of Evidence

In the Supreme Court, s. 15 reports stand as expert evidence. "Expert evidence" is different than other kinds of evidence, because it offers an expert opinion about the best parenting arrangements for the children.

(Normally, the only kind of evidence allowed at trial is evidence of facts: "I saw Ted outside the bank," "I have a blue Chevy Pinto," "last year we went to Chilliwack for Christmas," and so on. Opinion evidence is usually about beliefs, assumptions and conjectures: "aliens live on Jupiter," "my cat is better than your cat," or "Jerry is a bad father." Expert opinion evidence is about an expert's professional conclusions about an issue or question beyond most people's knowledge: "foundations need to be drilled to a minimum depth of 6m in Prince George to avoid frost heaves," "gerbils have an average I.Q. of 15" or "the kinematic viscosity of single non-winter grade oils is measured at a temperature of 100 °C in units of mm²/s.")

As expert evidence, s. 15 reports are often subject to the special provisions of Rule 40A about who is an expert and who isn't, introducing expert reports at trial and cross-examining the person preparing the report. The Supreme Court is usually very strict about how evidence is admitted at trial and how expert reports can be used.

Things are a bit different in the Provincial Court. Rule 11(2) deals with s. 15 reports, and this rule doesn't describe persons preparing s. 15 reports as "experts." In fact, the rule seems to treat s. 15 reports entirely differently than expert evidence, which is dealt with in Rule 11(3) to (8). This is probably why family justice counsellors are able to prepare s. 15 reports for Provincial Court: they are not expected to qualify as experts and s. 15 reports are treated differently than the usual sort of expert evidence.

Views of the Child Reports

Views of the child reports are a kind of s. 15 report in which the assessor is hired to meet with the child and report back to the court or the parents on the child's views and wishes. These reports can be prepared by experts (psychologists or psychiatrists) or by non-experts (lawyers, court workers and so forth). They do not recommend or suggest a certain parenting arrangement; they are primarily geared toward finding out what the child's preferences are, even though there's no guarantee that the court will do what the child wants.

Although it probably seems that these reports don't have a great deal of utility, in fact they are very helpful when a dispute is primarily focused on parenting issues, especially in the context of settlement discussions at case conferences. Parents can be profoundly influenced toward reason by a third-party's report of their children's wishes.

When these reports are prepared by experts, the expert will sometimes administer some tests to determine the child's truthfulness and honesty, and the expert may look at difficult issues such as whether the child has been alienated from a parent or whether the child has been coached to have a certain preference.

Non-experts don't have the special skills to administer tests like that or to give opinions about whether a child has been influenced by a parent or alienated against a parent. As a consequence, while their reports are much more limited in scope and usefulness, they are generally much cheaper and faster to obtain than expert's views of the child reports: you're not paying for an expert and the assessor isn't going into an expert's level of detail.

There is another difference between expert's and non-expert's views of the child reports that has to do with the previous discussion about evidence. Expert's views of the child reports are expert evidence that can be used in both the Provincial Court and the Supreme Court. Although non-expert's views of the child reports can be used in the Provincial Court because of the special provisions of Rule 11(2), non-experts won't meet Rule 40A's test for admissibility and can't be used as evidence in the Supreme Court.

Summary

Section 15 is really quite broad. It can be used to make an application for almost any kind of report in a family law case... (I was about to say "except for medical reports and financial reports," but nothing in s. 15 really limits the sort of report the court can order to just issues about children, does it?) ...but is most often used to get an assessment of the parenting arrangements that would be best for the children.

Custody and access reports can take a lot of time to process in the Provincial Court but they are usually free. Custody and access reports can be had much more quickly in the Supreme Court, but since they're done by private psychiatrists and psychologists they can be very expensive.

Views of the child reports are an underused species of s. 15 report, and are usually must faster and cheaper to obtain than custody and access reports, particularly where the report is prepared by a non-expert. They do not have the same persuasive effect on the court that custody and access reports have, however, and non-expert views of the child reports may not be admissible in Supreme Court matters.

Update: 24 August 2014

Lots has happened since I wrote this post in 2009. Most importantly, the Family Law Act has replaced the Family Relations Act, and what used to be known as "section 15 reports" are now known as "section 211 assessments" or "needs of the child assessments."

Assessments under the new law can be a lot more focussed than they were under the old law. The new law says that the court can appoint a family justice counsellor, social worker or "another person who is approved by the court," normally psychologists or registered clinical counsellors, to do report on the needs of a child, the views of the child and/or the ability and willingness of a party to meed the needs of the child. The old law just said that the court could order "an investigation into a family matter."

Here's what s. 211 of the new law says:
(1) A court may appoint a person to assess, for the purposes of a proceeding under Part 4 [Care of and Time with Children], one or more of the following:
(a) the needs of a child in relation to a family law dispute; 
(b) the views of a child in relation to a family law dispute; 
(c) the ability and willingness of a party to a family law dispute to satisfy the needs of a child.
(2) A person appointed under subsection (1)
(a) must be a family justice counsellor, a social worker or another person approved by the court, and 
(b) unless each party consents, must not have had any previous connection with the parties.
(3) An application under this section may be made without notice to any other person. 
(4) A person who carries out an assessment under this section must
(a) prepare a report respecting the results of the assessment, 
(b) unless the court orders otherwise, give a copy of the report to each party, and 
(c) give a copy of the report to the court.
(5) The court may allocate among the parties, or require one party alone to pay, the fees relating to an assessment under this section.
The new law improves on the old by:
  1. emphasizing the child-centred nature of the assessor's enquiry, 
  2. allowing the court to direct the assessor to consider the children's views, and
  3. focussing the enquiry on the ability of a party to meet the children's needs.
Beyond this, however, all of the old rules, standards and expectations that applied to s. 15 reports will continue to apply to s. 211 assessments.

On another subject, I had the good fortune of presenting with Dr. Phil Stahl, a highly respected forensic psychologist practicing in Arizona, about shared parenting after separation at a recent conference. Dr. Stahl spoke about the scientific standards which should be expected of people preparing needs of the child assessments at a later section, and his talk was fascinating, to say the least. Dr. Stahl has just just published a book on this issue, which I am happy to recommend. Forensic Psychology Consultation in Child Custody Litigation: A Handbook for Work Product Review, Case Preparation, and Expert Testimony is available through the American Bar Association.

90 comments:

  1. Thank you for your post. Can an individual request that a party have a section 15 be done by a professional psychologist- as opposed to a family justice counsellor - when the main issues involve mental history etc.? Background: My son's biological father is requesting access after no contact (with no contact order) for past five years. Looking how best to document his mental illness, criminal history and violence level in order to ensure a safe reintroduction with conditions and hired supervision. Thank you.

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  2. Absolutely. Many would say that s. 15 reports are best prepared by psychologists and psychiatrists anyways, because of their training and expertise, and membership in professional disciplinary organizations.

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  3. If a Section 15 report by a private psychologist s requested during a first appearance in a custody case, by one of the parents, is the cost divided between both of the parties, or by the parent who requests the Section 15 report?

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  4. we are greatly disapointed in section 15
    to us it seemed the lady picked a side and stayed with it
    she dident talk to a single family member on our side or go to my ex's home and when she did interview for the see how she gets along with dady thing he was aloud to have his mother and other daughter present, well,she also wouldent except any kind of evidance on our side
    her report is very wrong and the plain facts are not correct
    and we can prove it!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    dont do what we did and ask for a sec 15 becouse it was a compleat waste of time

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  5. My ex and I recently had a section 15 report completed as ordered by the provincial courts. The report was in my favor recommending that I get more access to my child then I currently have. My ex upon advice from her legal counsel has decided to have a critique of the report done. What purpose does the critique serve given that it is obviously biased in my ex's favor given that she hired and paid for the reviewer? Why do the courts accept this when the Section 15 report was ordered by the courts in the first place?

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  6. How do you know when a 4 year old is telling a story or the truth. how do you go to court with comments that these children have said.

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  7. Psychiatrists and psychologists who specialize in younger children will usually be able to give an opinion about the truthfulness of the child's statements. This is when you'd want to have a professional prepare a views of the child report.

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  8. when doing a section 15 report , are the party,s involved notified of times and dates of interviews? if so would they not then have time to be look better for the person doing the report?? does this happen over a period of weeks or months?
    dealing with Supreme court

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  9. The person preparing the report will usually talk to the parties about when they are each available to meet. The court doesn't set the dates for the interviews.

    The speed of the meetings depends on how busy the assessor is. Ideally, everything would be done within three months, but s. 15 reports usually take a lot more time.

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  10. What are your thoughts on a leaving it to a Section 15 report for the judge to decide upon an out of province mobility issue? my husband wants to take the children to PEI for an excellent work opportunity, but we have been separated for a long time. But our daughter loves her daddy and his new wife a lot.

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  11. Section 15 reports can be helpful for mobility disputes, but they're only part of the larger legal test. Ultimately, unless you can reach a settlement, it'll be up to the judge to make the final decision, and the judge won't be relying on the s. 15 report alone.

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  12. my x and i just had our first case conference and are now waiting on a section 15 report, I'm the one paying for the whole thing and praying that this works in my favor, she has been a poor mother since the split and has lied to me about many things. I'm engaged and have a nice set up and my daughter loves her new sisters and we can provide a great life for her , dance , swimming , good schools, sit down family dinners ect. I've always been in charge of dental, doctors perscriptions, we dont't smoke and live an active healthy life style please tell me that my x can't throw some act together thats going to blind the report...she lives alone and parties like a rock star every chance she gets. Drags our daughter around to her friends houses late durring the week, with no baths , smokes , and can't hold down a job?

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  13. in a shared 50 / 50 situation father gets remarried ( common law ) and the mother still lives single and has a hard time finding work. The father took me to court for primary residence and now they are making a section 15 report and i have no money for that? they took away my child support too. as a mother still i get the birth right correct.

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  14. My son was recently assaualted with a weapon by his stepbrother. I have been instructed to get a "views of the child report" prepared. I was told by an court recognized expertthat this report will be inadmissable if my ex husband claims parental allienation.

    Is this correct?
    I cannot afford to have this report prepared and am concerned that if I do, it will not be used.I was told it would cost $2500 dollars.

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  15. Experts who prepare views of the child reports are able to offer opinions in their reports, subject to the usual rules of evidence about expert reports.

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  16. My son just informed me that he is going to be interviewed for the first time in a section 15 report.then he said he would be interviewed again in 3 days in a home situation with his child, and that at that time his new partner, he said she would be interviewed for 1 hr.I know that this new partner can throw an act together to make things look good. they have only know each other for year.Do the interview people that are doing the report not consider grandparents and close family??to know all the facts,seems they would be the people with the truth!!thank you
    Grama

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  17. question
    do grandparents have any say or are they ever considered in doing a section 15 report?? Or do the people doing the report base thier evidence on friends and x husbands to report to the court??

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  18. The people who prepare s. 15 reports will sometimes speak to grandparents, particularly if they will be speaking to collateral witnesses (people other than the parents) and if they have been asked to speak to the grandparents (usually by the parents).

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  19. I have been following your comments and the questions you answer.Interesting , I have heard that references that are the choice of these parents are told what to say and I have heard that they tell the interviewer what they want to hear.is this report not about the children and the better home life and between the parents and not friends that say whatever to please a friend. Do parents reley on these kind of people to make a difference in a childs life?? Or are they just thinking about themselves?

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  20. An anonymous reader has submitted a comment which says that I have a bias against social workers as a result of this post. As near as I can tell, because I haven't dumped on social workers, the reader believes I have this bias because when I talk about the professionals I retain to prepare section 15 reports, I talk about "psychologists and psychiatrists" rather than "psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers." It is certainly true, as the reader points out, that social workers can prepare section 15 reports.

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  21. I just received shared custody in the BC Family Supreme COurt. I paid the eventual $10,000 for the S. 15 report, at first instance. My wife, through her lawyer, states they do not believe they are responsible for paying 50%.

    The report came out well in my favour (unanimous, with all professionals interviewed recommending shared custody), so my wife hired a child psychologist to critique it. He also testified at our trial.

    I am now self-representing because of the onerous $200k I spent in legal fees over the past 18 months.

    Our home equity was reapportioned 65% to her and I was ordered to pay spousal maintenance at the high end. All other assets, all of which amount to little, are to be split 50-50.

    Is there any case law or examples you could provide, or perhaps just offer your opinion, on how/why my wife should pay the 50% for the Section 15?

    Love your blog, by the way. Thanks so much.

    David

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  22. I'm sorry, but I can't give legal advice or opinions in this blog because of the huge potential for conflicts of interest. If you want, you can call my office at 604-689-7571 and after we've done a conflict check I'll be happy to answer your question.

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  23. An order granting overnight access of my 6.5 year old daugther was granted in trial to her father after years of limited to no contact in person or by phone. I have sole custody of my child. I took her to a psychologist previous to our latest hearing after advising my ex of my plan to do so and after my daughter had explicity advised she was afraid of overnight visits with her dad due to infrequent contact. at one point a whole year without seeing him. The Psych met with my daughter and then wrote a 1 page letter explaining their conversation and her views on access and what was required for my daugther to have a comfortable trusting relationship with her father. The psych adamantly says that overnights are not advisable. I tried to enter the letter into court after providing a copy to my ex's lawyer prior to trial. they had it thrown out and it was not read as the psych was not in attendance. I've requested that he attend a meeting with the psychologist but he has refused. How can I have this very telling letter read ? And if not, have a section 15 report requested after an order has been made that orders my daughter overnight stays with her father a stranger ? and she does not want to go ? she has not seen him in 5 mos at present and has not had an overnight with him since March 2009. He lives 10 hours away from my home. Suggestions ????? Any help you could provide would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you.
    C

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  24. now that the section 15 report is done, were does it go from here?? do the suport payments go back into effect and can a judge back up the support payments to where they were cut off,do to the report??like retro active
    how long does it take for the court to make up it's mind and is this up to the judge upon the reommandations in the report?
    or do the parents still go through more court issues??

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  25. A section 15 report doesn't change anything on its own; it's the judge who decides what will happen, with the consent of the parties if they can come to an agreement or after a trial if they can't.

    If something needs to change now, the usual thing to do would be to make an interim application. If it can wait, you would ask for a trial date. A trial can take anywhere from three months to twelve months to start, depending on how long the trial is expected to take.

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  26. I have sole custody and guardianship of my child. A new application was brought up to court and the judge requested Section 15 with respect to matters of access to the child.

    Could you please let me know what it means?

    He also order another trial. I am confused, I had trial and also the appeal was dismissed. Why to have this section now and why another trial?

    Thanks for your help,

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    1. if u have any complaints as to how this is done complain right away!document everything!the fj counsellor who did our report did not follow their guidelines and her supervisor tried to cover up her extreme stupidity!

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  27. A s.15 was recently ordered for my daughters father and I. I am trying to educate myself on what to expect. I have found lots of tips, advice and opinions on the matter but no where have I found any clear guidlines/rules/rights of/for the parents. could you please direct me to such resources?
    Thank you!

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  28. I don't believe that any such resource exists. There are cases where the court talks about the obligations of the person preparing the report in terms of fair, scientific processes (the College of Psychologists has ethical guidelines for assessors as well), but there's no independent statement of parents' rights and responsibilities that I'm aware of.

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  29. We just went through this process and I was incredibly disappointed by it. We have 60/40 right now (60 for me, 40 for his dad). The report said it should be 50/50, however, The psychologist had no due diligence. My ex would say something and he'd take it as gospel. Didn't ask me, didn't ask our doctor. He spend a total of 45 minutes observing me and my son in which time there was a 911 call across the street. This resulted in my son and I standing on the side walk looking at the firetruck with neighbours for at least 20 mins of the 45 he was there. He saw my ex and our son twice. The report was bias beyond what I thought was even possible, all because he didn't check his facts. It is riddled with half truths. How do I start the process of challenging it? We are hoping to stay out of court.

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  30. can a mentally ill father get shared custody of his kids even though one of his daughters has accused him of abuse? the judge decided to allow visits with him and his family knowing that they are not healthy for the kids

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  31. because my ex has a rich family they are trying to get shared custody knowing hes mentally ill and dangerious? how is this possible

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  32. I am looking to file an application to have my custody agreement altered due to my daughter's mother violating certain key aspects of it. My daughter is almost 13 and does not want to live with her mother any longer. I am wondering if it might be a good idea to get a "Views of the Child" report prior to filing the application. Your thoughts?

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  33. We had a custody and access report done. We've gotten the results. What do we do now? do we have to file something with the court? every time I call the court house to find out some info no one seems to know anything

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  34. I really cannot give legal advice in answer to a specific problem, but this sort of question is pretty common. A custody and access doesn't do a thing on its own. When one is completed, though, it can be used to (1) encourage a settlement, (2) support an interim application to establish or change a parenting situation before trial, or (3) argue a trial. It's up to the parents who get the report to decide how to make the best use of the report.

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  35. I requested a section 15 report to assist in resolving our custody issue. I've been through the process before where I gained sole custody of my son over ten years ago. This investigation commenced about three weeks ago, and I am disappointed and concerned about the process.

    The first time seemed more comprehensive in that there were psychological evaluations done, medical records reviewed, and interviews done with family members. This time around the investigator has rescheduled appointments at the last minute, arrived over an hour late for an appointment with no calls to reschedule, and family members haven't been spoken to.

    I am concerned about the way in which this investigator is conducting her report for it seems to me that she could be doing better. Is there anything I can do at this time or must I wait for her to get back to me with her final report?

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    1. me too! complain all away up to the bc ombudsperson. they have guidelines, they r published on the net, look it up.if they r not following them complain now before it is too late!

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  36. Hi,
    Just wondering if you have any information on privacy and confidentiality concerns that might be raised by s.15 reports. Are the reports themselves ever made public, or is it just the extracts that a judge may cite in a decision that become public knowledge? Further, how does the court rectify doctor-patient confidentiality with the public nature of these reports and family law decisions generally.

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  37. Custody and access reports generally aren't broadcast about; certainly the parties' lawyers, the court and the assessor don't make these things public.

    As far as the doctor-patient relationship is concerned, there isn't one. The assessor is retained to provide an opinion and doesn't engage in a therapeutic, treating relationship with the parties or their children.

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  38. At what age can a child decide where they want to live. We have a shared parenting arrangement but both my boys 13 and 11 want changes. What are their rights.

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  39. I'm sorry, but I can't give legal advice in reply to comments. I discuss the issue briefly in the Children > Access chapter of my website.

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  40. Is a Registered Social Worker (registered with a provincial College of Social Workers) considered an 'expert'?
    Thanks for any information you have,
    ~M.

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  41. Section 15(1)(b) actually lists social workers among the people who may prepare custody and access reports.

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  42. Just because Social Workers are "listed" it does not mean that they are the best choice to do the job. I would speculate that Social Workers are listed in an effort to keep this process a more widely accessible option. Personally, I would choose a Psychologist, if given the option.

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  43. If I request a section 15 report do my child support payments stop until it is complete?

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  44. How do I or the court determine who is deemed an "expert?"

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  45. how can a judge grant unsupervised access to a person alleged to be violent prior to a section 15 being completed? my son is 2 and a half....the court, lawyers and judges minimize domestic abuse and chalk it up as relationship problems. am scared for my son. do i have any recourse???

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  46. I'm sorry, but I can't give legal advice in reply to comments. If anybody wants to talk to me about these issues, please call my office at 604-689-7571 and I'll be happy to talk to you after we've done a conflict check to make sure I can talk to you.

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  47. I sent this letter to the BC Psych association today:



    Hi PSYCHOLOGISTS - you really need an ETHICS SALON on this subject!!!!!:


    The new Family Law Act is coming out next year and I have been writing and writing for three years to change this and I have sen the latest white paper and the new Family Law Act to replace the Familyt Relations Act will have a few more pointers to help Lawyers/judges be better "Psychologists" and for the Fanily Justice Counsellors (no such degree is known...back room trained with pamphlets) BUT, srtill no requirement for YOU or your associates and the only time your ilk are seen in a Family Law Court room is when the parties can afford to hire you and then each party hires their own....so you are stuch as hired guns for big bucks .

    What I would like to seee is for it to be MANDITORY for one or evn two Psychologists to do the assessment of the BEST INTERESTS of the children. That is: meet the kids, the parents, se the homes etc... and the DECIDE, not recomend, I mean decide.

    At this point you are not even in the picture. You are an outside professional to be hired if one has the money and your opinion can be over-ruled by the judge.


    So if you had to get your teeth done, would you go to a lwawyer? What about surgery, would you get a lawyer to do it, even if they had "guidelines"....?

    So I would like to see an ETHICS SALON regarding BC Family Law.

    I have written UBC, The BC Psych ass. the Canbadian psych ass. etc...the colleges....but I hate to say it but after threee years, psychologists don't seem to care that thousands of children are being mal-pracxticed upon every year here in BC, in court roomc and by Famil Justice Counsellors...who are there to save the government money so they don't have to pay Psychologists...

    So that is it. Why do you guys allow it? Why do you allow "non-professionals" to do thousands of Children's Best Interests assessments every year????

    I am perplexed because I thought you guys had an oath to protect the public but maybe not. But Dentists wouldn't allow it and Mechanics don't so why do your colleagues allow it???

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    1. I couldn't agree more!children should come first.

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  48. I left my mentally and emotionally abusive ex 2 yrs ago when i found out proof he was having sex with men as well as women.My councillers told me to leave he has a history of a volitile anger he has had guns out at times he has been suicdal ( only i know ) and his father shot and killed himself .We have 3 girls 15,9 &7.I went to live with my sister 14 hrs away,he had been abusive to the oldest.she now knows why i left.because he would not continue to pay for her braces i stupidly went back to live there tempoarily( to this day he never paid for braces ) we had already agreed before to joint cust & guar & support .he agreed to me living that far away.he was mad at me coming back .When i first left this man in front of our oldest he took a sledge hammer smashed most of the house contents then after police came burnt everything ( my daughter took pictures of all of it burnt)and then hid the rest.when i went back he continued to abuse me and in turn the kids by stealing the jointly owned truck out of my yard ( i was living on the family property in 2nd residense.) forcing the kids to walk in -20 weather to school ,i was forced into a vehicle loan so i could get to work when i already own 3 pickups.he continued to do other things as well as stop my support for over 4 months forcing me to leave again to stay with family 10 hrs away i now want to stay here.before i left he with held the 9 yr old from me and tryed to get the 7 yr old also so i couldnt take them.i left without the 9 yr old that was in july,when court action started by my new lawyer he started support again.we have been unsucessful into getting into court until last week.he has isolated her from me and now she says she doesnt want to be with me never did becaause i yell at the oldest.her sisters are settled and happy.they have ordered someone to talk to her and i think her sisters and then a hearing.i AM SO FRUSTRATED nobody is listening to the abuse i went threw .He was very verbally abusive in front of the kids i was stuttering when i left.Everyone told me to leave now i might have to go back or loose the 2 youngest to him. I need someone to help me ?? he posted naked pics on internet.wa emailing men off the men to men adds on kijiji ( before they stoped the personals.alot more that i cant say on here.will this person who talks to the kids talk to me and will they believe me? i have 2 councillers that it is in there report.my ex is also alcoholic i dealt with that also he also was a thief and did insurance fraud.I know they look at whats best for the kids but in this case whats best is that there mother doesnt live ear theere father.he now is mr goody 2 shoes and deniess everything.I tried to settle but unless it was on his terms he wouldnt. he also stopped mort and his busi loan payments aandd it statred to forclose. can any one offer help i am at my wits end.I am confident in my lawyer i think its the court system thats wrong

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  49. I am the common law partner of a father who has been completely alienated from his 3 children since Dec 2009. Because of one email sent in frustration due to not being allowed to see his children on Christmas, the court ordered that he must have a supervisor when he visits with the children. I met his ex wife on two differnt occasions for the purpose of acting as a supervisor. There was a miscommunication issue in the process; my partners's counsel did not inform me about a letter that needed to be signed and sent to the opposing party's lawyer before one particular scheduled access visit. The visit took place anyways,the ex wife was ok with going to a restaurant instead with my partner and their children. Everything seemed fine, but in court,January 2010 the ex wife descibed the access visit at the restaurant as a complete disaster. The acting judge at the time told me himself that he did not want me to be "burdened" with acting as a supervisor any longer as the case was getting complicated and was heading for supreme court. He suggested that perhaps another member of my family could be a supervisor. Since then every effort to provide access schedules and supervisors has been rejected for one reason or an other by the ex wife. My partner has not been allowed to see, talk to or know anything about his kids since 2009. In a sworn affidavit the ex wife states that I "was not prepared to sign" and not "willing to abide...term of access" and went as far to say that the judge called me "unsuitable". This is false information and continues to be used against a loving father to support the ex wife's claim that he has "abandoned" the children. She has cut off all communication, even changing her phone number so the father cannot call. Now she is demanding a Section 15- Views of the children report. The ex wife states that access or phone calls will not take place until one is completed. Just more stalling and wasting the courts time is what it is. How is she able to rise above the law and not follow court orders?

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  50. What happens if you disagree with the report or find that is biased? ex. many quotes from the other party but very few from me.

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    1. I'm sorry, but I cannot give legal advice in reply to comments. If you want, you can call my office at 604-689-7571 and I'll be happy to talk to you for a few minutes after we've done a conflict check.

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  51. I am in receipt of a letter from my ex-wife's lawyer who is requesting that a view of the children report must be completed before I can see my children. My ex wife is already in breach of court orders that state I should have reasonable access to the children, including phone calls. I have not been allowed to see or talk to my children for some time now. They letter also says that if I don’t comply, they will go to court to have the views of the children ordered. Do I have to do as they demand or should I let them take me to court so a judge can decide if it is appropriate? (I will be representing myself).

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    1. I'm sorry, but I cannot give legal advice in reply to comments. If you want, you can call my office at 604-689-7571 and I'll be happy to talk to you for a few minutes after we've done a conflict check.

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  52. How Can I get a parenting capitcy assement dissmissed in court todays Date is May 7 2012 please let me no as soon as posible my e-Mail is ______________@yahoo.com please thank You Very Much My court date is in June 1 2012

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    1. Unfortunately, you cannot get a parenting capacity assessment "dismissed." In general, all you can do is try to persuade the judge that the assessment is faulty in some way. Perhaps the assessor didn't interview all the people she should have; perhaps the assessor misinterpreted the test results; perhaps the assessor was biased is her assessment. It is also possible to get another assessor to critique the first assessor's report, however the court rarely finds critique reports to be of much help.

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    2. Hello,

      I am a single mother and have shared custody of my 13 year old son since 2003. Since 2007 my ex has been employed about 6 months out of the year in alberta. He has a common law spouse and she emotional/verbally abusive to my son. There was an assault by his dad and the minsitry got involved and I have put my son into councelling last july, but because we have joint custody its made it difficult making appointments because the dad does not want my son to go. I reuested a section 15 report done but I am thinking that this family justice councellor has a bias of single mothers because she would not stop metioning the fact that my son has half siblings in the other home. My son wants to spend the majority of time in my home because of the negative relationship he has with his step mom and half siblings. I am scared they will use the half siblings to keep my son in their home. I tried to make it clear to the FJC that because of his dad, my son has not been to councelling since December 2011and it now June 2012. I couldn't stop stressing that I need the control to make councelling and doctors appointments without his dad interfering. I am afraid that the FJC is going to side with an abusive dad and stepmother because they are married common law. I nervous I made a mistake and that she is not going to further investigate my son's needs and is going to base her decision on the fact that I am single. I need to get lawyer and I was hoping anyone can reccommend a strong lawyer who can defend me against a couple who lie about everything, protect my rights as a mother and most importantly protect my son's rights. Do I stand a chance at anything if my son goes to his dad's home if the dad works in alberta 6 months out of the year. Should'nt I as his mother be given priority of 3rd party care givers? I need serious legal advice and help

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    3. I'm sorry, but I cannot give legal advice in reply to comments. If you want, you can call my office at 604-689-7571 and I'll be happy to talk to you for a few minutes after we've done a conflict check.

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  53. if a goverment agancy whants a parenting assessment done on a person from another province may that person have one done themselves

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    1. I don't know. I suppose it would depend on whether there was an order or an agreement for the assessment, and whether the order or agreement specified who would conduct the assessment. I wouldn't spend the money on a private assessment without knowing whether the agency would object to its use.

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  54. I find it unclear whether a Section. 15 custody and access report prepared by a family justice counsellor is admissible in Supreme Court. Section 15 says that a family counsellor (which I assume is the same as a family justice counsellor) or other person approved by the court can prepare a custody and access report. However, is a family justice counsellor (or even an other person approved by the court)automaticcally an "expert" who can give opinion evidence and does that person's report meet the test of admissibilty in Supreme Court? The wording of Section 15 appears to give the court discretion as to who can prepare a custody and access report and it seems to suggest it would be admissible. However, this could be said to be in conflict with the rules as to admissibilty in Supreme Court and who is entitled to give opinon evidence. It does not make sense that the Supreme Court can under Section 15 appoint a family justice counsellor to do a custody and access report yet it ends up being inadmissible as the family justice counsellor is not an "expert" entitled to give opinion evidence. Seems like a conflict between the wording of Section 15 and the rules as to admissibility.

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    1. Yes, s. 15 does give the court a wide latitude about who can prepare custody and access reports. Although custody and access reports in the Supreme Court are usually prepared by psychologists, I expect the report of a family justice counsellor would be admitted as long as it meets the criteria for expert reports in Part 13 of the Supreme Court Family Rules. That part makes special provision for the admissibility of custody and access reports.

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  55. Who or what governs the confidentiality of a Section 15 report??? In my case, many individuals of 3 different families were involved in a Section 15 for custody. The report was part of a Provincial Court application. The report was released by the Psychologist with a confidentiality clause to each of the lawyers representing the different parties. One of the parties then released the report to my ex husband who was also trying to gain custody & filed the document in BC Supreme Court. As their lawyer did not release the information to my ex husband, nor did their lawyer advise his clients they could not, then how is this detailed report of 9 people governed by privacy? It is not governed by Information and Privacy either. The Judges in both BC Provincial and BC Supreme verbally reprimanded both of the parties but with no consequences.

    Why would anyone want their personal information released to the public with no such governance of privacy? Think twice before agreeing to a Section 15 report unless there is a confidentially clause issued by the Court with substantial penalty if the confidentiality was/is violated.

    Also, The Civil Liberties people said it was a violation of the Privacy Act but the cost of bringing litigation would be very high and the award would likely be limited to actual damage you have incurred, which you would also have to prove.

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    1. I suspect that whomever you spoke to at the Civil Liberties Association was likely right. No one governs the confidentiality of section 15 reports, just like no one governs compliance with a court order. In both cases it is up to the injured party to apply to court for a remedy.

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  56. Since you mentioned non compliance with court orders, can you explain how they will be enforced when the new Family Law rules come into effect next year? Who will we complain to when the other parent refuses to let the child have access to the other parent? Or will there be nothing one can do. I have documented my access and non access for the past 2 1/2 years and tried everything to see my child but the mother refuses to comply with any court order. i am totally frustrated because my ex has a vendetta against me and my family and she definitely doesn't have our child's best interest at heart. i have had my lawyer, FJC and other family members try and reason with her to no avail. I'm at the point of giving up, I'm so defeated.

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    1. The new act will have a ton of new enforcement mechanisms, including a few that are specific to access. There's a lot more information about this in the page "Family Law Act Information & Resources," to which you'll find a link at the top right-hand portion of the page.

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  57. In a recent FCC I requested a S15 report with a psychological assessment be ordered. My ex, through her attorney, refused as long as I was requesting a psychological assessment of her, however they agreed that a views of the child report would be acceptable to them. I am seeking sole custody and really feel that a psychological assessment would benefit my case. Since there was no agreement in the FCC no report was ordered and I will now be going to the courts to request that a judge order one in an interim order. What is the likelihood of this being successful? Is there case law in provincial court that I should review to help me in this?

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    1. The likelihood of your success depends on the circumstances of your case, and I can't answer your question without knowing a lot more about what's going on. You can look for case law on custody and access reports on the website of the Canadian Legal Information Institute: http://www.canlii.ca/en/index.php. Focus on cases from British Columbia.

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  58. me too! the fj counsellor who is doing this did the same thing to us and seems totally biased and unprofessional, maybe the same one! same story!did u contact the provincial ombudsperson to say u have been treated unfairly...I have and am hoping it shows how she did not use the guidelines that are in their own manual in doing this report.
    e-mail me if u want cherylannirvine@hotmail.com

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  59. I started complaining about the process the fj counsellor was using very early on. at the top level of management I did not receive a response regarding my concerns over the process until the same day the fj counsellor called to say it was done and in the mail. I have spent about half an hour with said fj counsellor and she never returned my calls. I immediately called the bc ombudsperson to complain that I was being stonewalled and this substandard report was being passed off despite not being done according to their own guidelines. I e-mailed the ombudsperson all the details. did they effectively stonewall me as it is now a court matter. I am losing sleep, I love my son so much and his father is mentally unbalanced. besides the fj counsellor not using the guidelines in preparing this report I really felt she minimized the violence we experienced and dismissed it entirely. the father of my son has fas possibly and almost no parenting ability.

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    1. will the ombudsman be able to dismiss this report.....I hope so!

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  60. http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/justice-services/publications/fjsd/policy/manual.pdf

    this is the operational manual for fj counsellors with a chapter on sec 15.
    make sure they r doing their job!
    u can complain about the process but not the outcome!

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  61. What a joke my experience with the family justice counsellors was, they did not hardly speak to our family at all even though the child is in our care. They ignored and minimized the violence and where there were gaps they flat out lied. I will report this to the Ombudsperson and will go to the media if I can as the whole thing was so incredibly outrageous. Hard to believe what we have had to suffer on account of these "professionals" who are unable to even do the job they are hired to do. Shame on them!

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    1. are you dutch ?? because i am .. and some comments are more dutch vision then ca vision i think ..

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  62. what does a s.15 report cost if ordered by suprem court . ?
    its ordered to be made and me and my ex need to split the costs..
    ca courts are new to me . my ex left to bc in dec 2009 and it took me 2 years to find her in bc thru the centrale authorities and 2 child find services .
    now court tells me i can have intensive contact withmy daughter in the next 6 months ????
    i have to travel from the netherlands to bc every time ... are these costs to be declarated as well ???
    sorry formy englisch i am not a native writer..

    best regards ..and thanks for your answer ...

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    1. The cost depends on who is hired and the scope of the report. You should speak to a psychologist or registered clinical counsellor who prepares these reports and ask for a quote. In my experience a full s. 15 report prepared by a psychologist will cost anywhere from $6,000 to $12,000.

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  63. I am looking for a psychologist to do a Section 15 report in a situation where my 5 year old son complains that his father hits him - the child fights strenuously not to go to his father's and acts out in extreme ways when he is with me (we have 50/50 access). The father was previously abusive towards my older son (not his) and myself. He is a successful business man and can be very charming. He is re-married and expecting another child and has accused me of bringing this case to court out of jealously. What I have experienced in court to date and what I read here frightens me as it seems there is little I can do to help my child particularly as the father refuses to even allow conselling. I have heard horror stories (and there are more on this site) about the quality of section 51 reports. I am seeking to identify a good psychologist with experience dealing with domestic and child abuse. Can anyone provide a referral or guide me as to where to find help in BC?

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    1. You should try calling the College of Psychologists. They will be able to refer you to someone.

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  64. My ex proposes that a Views of the Child Report be prepared. I think this her way of delaying the divorce even further! I have been trying to get divorced for over a year now! We already share 50/50 custody, but I want to change it to a week on week off. That's it! And she wants a report now? Can I refuse this proposal??

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    1. Sure you can oppose that. Of course you risk the court making an order for the report anyway. That said, these reports aren't mandatory. If you can think of a logical reason why the report is unnecessary or would be superfluous, say so.

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  65. My ex and I commissioned a Section 15 report, in an attempt to avoid court. Unfortunately, it ended up costing us (well, me!), even more as it was so poorly done. In addition to not doing any fact checking, it was internally inconsistent and resulted in extra days in court reviewing most of the 70 pages. Since I was the one to have a problem with it, I was the one who had to pay for the psychologist to come and testify in court about the report that he screwed up! The only upside was that my ex was no longer able to really call any of his witnesses since they were on record in the report making (blatantly) false statements. Luckily, the judge agreed with us, and said it was one of the sloppiest and poorest reports she had ever seen. My biggest problem with this is I don't believe that there is any recourse whatsoever. The psychologist gets paid to screw up, he's not the one who then gets stuck with the court bills. He gets even more money when he's called to court to testify about his mistakes. I'm not saying the reports have to be perfect or correct all of the time, but a modicum of accountability would be nice.

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    1. What psychologist did you use?

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    2. Sorry, I only just saw this while looking for something else. I don't know if it's a good idea right now to put down his name since I'm considering filing a complaint. The problem is that there is no accountability. None. While the judge acknowledged that it was incredibly gender biased (and my ex's lawyer was forced to agree during her closing statement), and poorly done, there's nothing you can really do about it. Luckily I had the resources to pay for a seven day trial, most of which was spent going over the inconsistencies in the report. If I didn't have the resources to pay for that I would have lost my son, and he would have gone without medical assessments which he desperately needed. Other lawyers who have seen the report feel that the psychologist must have had something going on to impact his judgement because the conclusions he draws at the end are at odds with what is in the report. There's not even an attempt at impartiality. We were asked to each submit 6 parenting references. He phoned every single one of my ex's, and not one of mine. The only professional references were mine, and all of them expressed concerns about my ex and the fact that my son needed treatment....but then he completely ignores them. It was just downright strange.

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    3. I wish you all the best with your complaint. I hope someone starts keeping track of reports like yours and the names of the psychologists completing them - I'm pretty certain the College of Psychologists will not look at a complaint after you have gone to court, but someone does need to do something to ensure parents can inform themselves about the quality of the report the ought to expect from the psychologist they choose… If you do find someone who will hear and act on your complaint, please share that information.

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  66. I would warn anyone considering getting a Section 15 Report to think twice.

    I got a Section 15 Report completed upon multiple recommendations. The psychologist either did not read (he claimed at first to not have received them and then said he had forgot he had read them, but stood by his initial opinion) or chose to disregard documented concerns from both MCFD and the RCMP.

    Within 6 weeks of his recommendations taking effect, two of my kids (both under 8) had disclosed what was likely sexual abuse at the hands of their father.

    I complained to the College who upheld the psychologists findings, based on the fact that the psychologist simply "forgot" and "made mistakes" and "said he considered it." The College either can not or will not hold its psychologists accountable for their accuracy in writing these reports.

    As a result, I strongly recommend that any parent with any evidence of risk to the children to take their chances in court where judges at least are required to cite precedents and evidence to support their decisions and are aware of the potential to be overturned on appeal.

    I'd also encourage sites like this one to publish a list of questions to ask a psychologist before the complete the report should they decide to go ahead. (For example: Will your report cite sources that have been provided in supporting your opinion? What do you feel is acceptable to be considered as a parallel interview procedures? Can I trust that documentation provided will be used to assess the veracity of the statements of both parties? What will you do if one of the parties statements clearly contradicts statements of MCFD and the RCMP? If a party receives an invalid score on the Child Abuse assessment, would that information lead you to consider that party as a potential risk to children. If not, why? Etc, etc.). And if I had to do it over again, I'd get all of the answers to those questions documented in writing and review with a lawyer (or other knowledgable third party) to review before embarking on the assessment.

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    1. Thanks for your comment.

      At a recent conference, I had the good fortune of presenting with Dr Phil Stahl, a highly respected forensic psychologist practicing in Arizona, about shared parenting after separation. Dr Stahl also spoke about the scientific standards which should be expected of people preparing needs of the child assessments; his talk was fascinating, to say the least.

      Dr Stahl has just published a book which might be of interest to you and others: "Forensic Psychology Consultation in Child Custody Litigation: A Handbook for Work Product Review, Case Preparation, and Expert Testimony." The book is available through the American Bar Association here:

      http://shop.americanbar.org/eBus/Store/ProductDetails.aspx?productId=214358

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  67. I've been going through "the system" with my ex for 9 years - I have done it all, 30+ times in court, mediation, psychologists, views of the child report....and after all of that time and expense all I can say is the best thing you can do is take responsibility for the mental health of your children and try harder to get along. You will look back on it all someday and regret your role - no matter how justified - in making your child's childhood not what it could have been. I know there are troubles and abuse and I went through all of that too - still am - but the child is hardwired to love a Mom or a Dad no matter what you think of the other parent. Don't give your money to the court system - it will eat you alive and spit you out. Get personal counselling on how to deal with the other parent, how to negotiate with difficult people, how to manage anger, and most importantly, how to help your child as you navigate the mine field that is the court system becasue they will be right beside you whether you like it or not and it will permanently damage you and them I can guarantee you that.

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    1. Thank you very much for these comments.

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