L. B-M. v. M.M.: Order for a Section 30 Assessment
The parties in this case have two children together who are 9 and 11 years of age. On January 12, 2020, the mother took both children with her when she left the matrimonial home. Since February 6, 2020, one child has been with the mother and the other child has been with the father. Under this arrangement, each child has had little contact with the other child and the other parent. On February 14, 2020, the mother’s Application was issued by the Court and she subsequently brought an urgent motion on parenting and support issues. It is anticipated that the father would bring a cross-motion on those same issues.
The parties have significantly different views on what is in the children’s best interests and as such, they agreed to a “section 30 assessment” to determine the type of parenting arrangement that would be in the children’s best interests. To this end, they have found an assessor who is willing to conduct the assessment. However, the timing of the urgent motion was such that the father did not have a chance to file his materials and so the Court had to rely on the submissions of counsel to determine whether a section 30 assessment should be ordered.
A section 30 assessment refers to section 30 of the Children’s Law Reform Act which governs the appointment of assessors to assess custody and access matters and to report on that assessment to the parents and the Court. Section 30 assessments may be entered into voluntarily on the consent of both parties, or by court order to assist in the determination of custody and access matters. Typically, a private service provider conducts the assessment and the assessor can be a social worker, a psychologist, a psychiatrist or a combination of those professionals. These assessments are generally considered only when there are serious clinical concerns or complex parenting issues. As a result, a section 30 assessment can be very intense and expensive for the parties and the children.
Although the parties have consented to a section 30 assessment in this case, the Court declined to make an order for a section 30 assessment on the basis that the parties need to provide further information before a Court can decide whether a section 30 assessment should be ordered. Those details include:
- the date the assessment will begin and the expected completion date;
- whether the assessor will use remote technology to conduct the assessment;
- whether the assessor will conduct or arrange psychological testing of either parent or either child;
- whether the assessor will hold a disclosure meeting with the parties to be followed by preparation of the assessment report, in which case, the expected date for completion of the assessment report; and
- whether the parties have agreed on the cost and the payment of the cost.
The Court noted that even if a section 30 assessment can begin in April or May, it would still not resolve the immediate parenting and support issues. Thus, the Court urged the parties to attend mediation with a view to making an agreement that addresses the immediate parenting and support issues until the section 30 assessment is completed.
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