When parents are unable to agree about parenting arrangements, they may wish to have a Parenting Plan Assessment completed to evaluate the needs of the children and each parent’s respective ability to meet those needs. The parents may mutually agree to participate in the Assessment, or the court may Order an Assessment. The Assessment report may assist the parents to negotiate a parenting agreement, or it may assist the court in making an Order with respect to parenting arrangements for children.
The Assessor gathers information through interviews with each parent, the children, and new partners or other relevant parties. Observation visits occur in each of the children’s homes. Information is gathered from professionals involved with the family, such as doctors, schools, police, mental health professionals, etc. A report is provided with recommendations for the family based on the information obtained. Recommendations may include who will make decisions for the children (custody), parenting time (access), as well as any other recommendations the Assessor deems necessary for the future wellbeing of the children.
Parenting Plan Assessments generally take 3-4 months to complete, and typically require 30-40 hours of work. The Assessment is billed at the Assessor’s hourly rate and a retainer is required. Parents usually share the cost of the Assessment unless other arrangements are made through the court or by mutual agreement of the parents.
Co-parenting is a long term commitment that requires cooperation and communication between separated parents. Parenting mediation is a cooperative process whereby, with the assistance of a mediator, separating parents can negotiate and create a post-separation parenting arrangement. This allows for a healthy family environment for children despite the breakdown of the adult relationship.
A mediator does not make decisions for parents, but assists them in creating a viable parenting plan for their family. During mediation, parents are expected to put their children’s needs first, to be honest in discussions, to be respectful in meetings and all communications, to listen to the other parent’s viewpoint, to be willing to consider all options for resolving issues in the children’s best interest, and to honour any agreements made.
Financial and property questions are referred to lawyer mediators who specialize in mediating property and support issues.