Where custody and access is at issue Courts have the ability to order a “Section 30 Assessment”. Section 30 refers to s. 30 of the Children’s Law Reform Act, which states:
The court before which an application is brought in respect of custody of or access to a child, by order, may appoint a person who has technical or professional skill to assess and report to the court on the needs of the child and the ability and willingness of the parties or any of them to satisfy the needs of the child.
Often Section 30 assessments are ordered on the consent of both parties or where the court thinks they are necessary even if both parents do not agree. Previously assessments were more common in cases where there were clinical issues present such as special developmental needs of the children, however, courts will typically only order a section 30 assessment where it is reasonably necessary to determine the issues in dispute. See Kramer v. Kramer.
The legislation requires only that a section 30 assessor have “technical or professional skill to assess and report to the court.” Assessors are from a range of backgrounds, including psychologists, social workers, or experienced family law practitioners.
Assessors use a number of methods to obtain information about the child(ren) and parents, including:
- “Interviews with each parent and anyone living with the person seeking custody or access (e.g. new partners);
- Interviews with the child and observation of interaction between parents and children;
- Contact with others who have had significant involvement such as teachers or family doctors, as well as relatives who have a significant role in the lives of the children, such as grandparents;
- A review of significant records or reports about the children or their parents; and,
- Psychological tests on parents and perhaps children, if a registered psychologist is involved.” V.S.J. v. L.J.G.
If assessments are completed, they may need to be updated if there is a significant passage of time between the assessment and the court trial. For example, in Closner v. Closner, the court did not order an updated report where:
- there was not a change or development in the conflict between the parties;
- the parties never implemented the changes outlined in the original report;
- the child would need to be interviewed again and involved in the court process again;
- the parties may introduce evidence of their conflict and the child’s circumstances by testimony at trial;
- the court would be in a position to make a determination based on the original assessment along with testimony at trial on the issues of custody and access.
It is important to have a lawyer that understands your divorce or child custody and access dispute. If you have questions about section 30 assessments or your rights and obligations relating to child custody or access contact Windsor family law lawyers Mary Fox, Tanya McNevin or Thomas MacKay today by calling 519-259-1820. We serve clients in Windsor, Tecumseh, Lasalle, Essex, Leamington, Kingsville, Belle River and Lakeshore, and throughout southern Ontario.