A section 30 assessment refers to section 30 of the Children’s Law Reform Act of Ontario (CLRA) which governs the appointment of an assessor to assess custody and access matters and to report on the assessment to the parents and court.
Custody and access assessments may be entered into voluntarily by the consent of both parties, or may be ordered by the Court to assist in the determination of the custody and access matters.
Custody and access assessments are usually considered only if matters are complex and/or include concern for mental health issues. This is typically a concern regarding one parent and their capacity to meet the needs of their child, or keep their child safe. However, if a child has complex needs themselves, be they medical, developmental or educational, then an assessment may help determine those needs and the ability of the parents to meet them.
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These assessments are typically provided by private service providers and thus are often quite costly and time consuming. Costs can run as high as ten to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the professional(s) conducting the assessment and complexity of the matters explored. Assessors can be either a social worker, psychologist, psychiatrist or any combination thereof.
The assessor is to conduct their assessment as neutrally as possible and the assessor should set out a clear process for the assessment which would include their intake (referral) process, assessment procedures and post-assessment disclosure plan.
In the assessment process, the assessor should meet with both parents on several occasions as well as with the children on several occasions, brought equally by both parents. The assessor is likely to review school records and may also review medical, dental and counselling records of either or both parents and children. The assessor may also speak with other persons who can provide information regarding either the parents or children. Assessors do require the cooperation and consent of both parents to access information and speak with people, which by law, shall not be unreasonably withheld.
At times, the report of the assessor facilitates a settlement of the issues between the parents, and where a settlement has not been achieved, the report can be used for court purposes. In this case, the assessor may be called to court as a witness to speak to their assessment.
Given the intensity and intrusiveness of a s.30 assessment, these should not be entered into lightly. It is advised that people consult with a family law lawyer before entering into this process.