When parents cannot agree on the parenting plan, how to make decisions for their child, or other separation-related issues, the courts or parents may request the appointment of a custody and access assessment under Section 30 of the Children’s Law Reform Act. Child custody evaluations are conducted for the courts and the families, with the focus being on the best interests of the children. With many of these families, there are allegations of family violence, high conflict, significant mental health problems, substance abuse, and the estrangement of children.
The assessment entails multiple interviews of the parents, the children, significant family members and collateral professionals, such as the children's teachers, therapists, and doctors, to assist in understanding the complexity of the family dynamics and the needs of the children. At times, psychological testing may be required. The assessment also incorporates observations of visits between each parent and their children which take place in various settings.
After providing data and analysis, Allyson submits her clinical impressions and provides, for the consideration of the courts, recommendations that meet the best interests and developmental needs of the children. In these ways, Allyson not only offers the opportunity for children to express their feelings, but she is also an advocate to the court on behalf of the children, enabling their psychological and developmental needs to be met.
Allyson reviews all findings together with the parents and legal counsel. It is hoped that the development of a detailed parenting plan will facilitate settlement between the co-parents as they recognize the need for solution and compromise, along with the restoration of healthy relationships.
Assessments typically take between 45 and 60 hours and span three to four months; however, this can vary from family to family. A complete and comprehensive report may be provided upon request.