By Sonja Lusignan of Calgary Family Law Associates on February 24, 2020.
A Practice Note 8 Assessment (formerly known as a “Bilateral Parenting Assessment”) is a comprehensive assessment by a mental health professional who gathers information from a variety of sources, who then develops a recommendation about what is the optimal parenting plan for a particular child in a particular family.
The parenting expert gathers information from a number of sources, including but not limited to the following:
- Multiple interviews with each parent;
- Multiple interviews with the children, depending on their age;
- Observations of parent and child together;
- A review of references provided by collateral contacts; and
- A review of each parent’s proposed parenting plan;
- A review of the psychological testing results of each parent.
If either or both parents have re-partnered, their new partner may also be assessed.
After the psychologist has obtained all of the information, the psychologist writes a report which is often very lengthy and very detailed, and gives recommendations to parents, and ultimately the court, on the best parenting plan for these children.
Generally, the parenting expert will review the report with each parent prior to releasing the final report so each parent can correct or comment on what they think are factual errors. The report is available for each parent to read at their lawyer’s office, but they are not given a copy of it, they are only given a copy of the recommendations.
These reports are very through and are often, but not always, heavily relied on by the court if parents cannot come to an agreement on a parenting plan, so long as the parenting expert uses sound methodology and has correct assumptions.
These reports can be quite expensive. The range of prices for these reports is anywhere from $8,000.00 to $30,000.00 or $40,000.00.
There are additional fees incurred if you want to have the parenting expert cross-examined before and / or at a trial. It is important to note that if you disagree with a report, or if the other parent disagrees with the report, cross-examining the parenting expert can be quite expensive.
For example, if you want to cross-examine the parenting expert before a trial, you can expect to pay approximately $3,000.00 per day for the parenting expert to review his or her notes, and to attend at Sonja’s office to be questioned (with a court reporter present who creates a transcript), and to obtain the transcript.
These reports are only supposed to be ordered if the parents have the ability to pay for them. Some sources of payment are savings, net sale proceeds of a matrimonial home sale, or income.
If you have further questions about Practice Note 8 assessments, please contact Sonja Lusignan.
This information is a brief summary and very general in nature. Please discuss this further with your lawyer to understand how it relates to your specific situation.