They are often requested when there are concerns about the other parent’s ability to parent, when a child’s needs are not being adequately met, or when one parent feels that the other is alienating them from a child.
These assessments can be initiated at the request of a lawyer, individual, or Court order. If the other party will not agree to participate in this type of assessment, then you will need to obtain a court-ordered assessment. If the court orders the assessment, the other party will have to cooperate. Otherwise, the custody and access assessment can be done on consent between the two parties involved but that consent should be written by a lawyer, and each person should be expected to obtain independent legal advice prior to undertaking this process.
Parties are given recommendations about custody and access that are based upon the best interests of the children.
Assessors are highly trained and objective professionals who provide the parties and the Court with a custody and access assessment report and/or verbal disclosure of the recommendations. The report usually indicates the needs of the children, which party can best meet those needs, and what each parent can do to improve the situation for the children. The report includes specific recommendations about custody and access.
These are lengthy and rather comprehensive assessments that take approximately three months to complete. They usually involve several steps including meeting with the parents individually, completing home visits, meeting with the children, and talking to professionals who have been involved in the situation.
The benefit to having a custody and access assessment completed is that the parties are given recommendations about custody and access that are based upon the best interests of the children. It takes the guessing out of who said what and who did what to whom, and puts the focus on the children.
Typically, a verbal disclosure of the assessment findings occurs at the end of the process. A full report of the assessment will be provided at the request of one or both parents, or in the event that the matter proceeds in the litigation process.