Updating an Assessment in a High-Conflict Custody and Access
Stone v Williams, 2014 ONSC 5086
This case addresses the issue of updating an assessment in a high-conflict custody and access dispute.
The Applicant in this matter, Geoffrey Stone, brought a motion for the “primary purpose of obtaining an order for an update of the court ordered s. 30 Custody and Access Assessment completed by Ron Stewart” (paragraph 1). The parties were in a relationship for several years and they lived together for several months, off and on. The child of the relationship, A., was born on January 28, 2010. Upon the breakdown of their relationship, the parties have “been unable to agree on the amount of time that the father should be spending with A.” (paragraph 5). On November 7, 2013, the initial assessment completed by Ron Steward was released and recommended joint custody of A. According to the Applicant, the Respondent continues to resist his efforts to spend time with A. It is clear that A. is “experiencing difficulty transitioning from his mother’s care to the father’s home and the Court requires an updated assessment to understand the cause of these difficulties” (paragraph 14).
The court commenced its analysis by citing Perrier v Perrier, 1996 CarswellOnt 2318, where the court ordered an updated assessment because the initial assessment only provided the court with recommendations based on “part of the picture”. In this case, the Court found that the original assessors were “in the best position to look again at the circumstances of those involved and to assist the trial judge with an appraisal of the changes, if any, that had taken place on all sides and where the best interests of the children will be assured”.
The Court found that an updated assessment may the most appropriate response to the ongoing issues and alleged alienation, in order for the Court to understand what is causing A’s distress. The Court was weary of ordering an updated assessment within a year of the original, but found the determinative factor to be whether “the dynamics of the parties’ interaction with the child and each other have changed in a significant way since the initial assessment” (paragraph 19). Further, the Court found that updated assessments had been ordered in other cases less than a year after the date of an original assessment.
In consideration of all the above, the Court found that it was necessary in this case to make an Order requiring the original assessor to complete an updated assessment.