When you’re in the middle of a family law dispute, nothing else seems to matter. You just want to get “things” straightened out so that no one – especially your children – suffers unnecessarily. If you’re involved in a divorce or separation that’s less than cordial, you no doubt understand that the needs and views of your child or children are of the utmost importance at this time, and you want them to come out of this experience as unscathed as possible.
If you’re at a standstill with your former spouse about parenting issues, your attorney or the judge involved in your case might suggest a Section 211 Family Law Act report, which will provide some basic information about your child(ren)’s needs so that they may be assessed in order to determine what is right for the young people in your life.
A Section 211 report may be prepared by a variety of neutral individuals, including psychologists and social workers. A family justice counsellor may also prepare the report but they are often backlogged and it takes a while to schedule a meeting and then receive the report from them. Most individuals, as a result, turn to one of the other two for this service.
Psychologists prepare the most complete report as they are able to include a psychological assessment of the parties involved. Neither a social worker nor a family justice counsellor possess the credentials to be able to do that. This is considered a “full section 211” report and is certainly the most comprehensive available.
What’s in the report?
If you were to look up the Family Law Act s. 211, this is what you’d see.
Section 211(1) of the Family Law Act reads:
A court may appoint a person to assess… one or more of the following:
(a) the needs of a child in relation to a family law dispute;
(b) the views of a child in relation to a family law dispute;
(c) the ability and willingness of a party to a family law dispute to satisfy
the needs of the child.
- 211 reports fall into one of two categories:
- The “views of the child” report only provides information as to what the child says about which parent they wish to live with or wish to spend time with. It’s not a “full” report in that it doesn’t address letters a or c in the statement above. It’s generally quite short and to the point.
- In contrast, “Full s.211 reports” include information about letter a – the child’s needs as well as letter b – the child’s views. In addition, a full s. 211 report may include various pieces of information about the parents including parenting styles and other details about the child’s home in general. This is a very complete report and will likely be lengthy. It is prepared by a psychologist.
Who pays for this?
Though s. 211 reports are ordered by a judge, it’s important to understand that these reports are not paid for by the courts. They are paid for by one or both of the parents of the child(ren) in question, depending on the circumstances involved. If you are reading this and believe that you would benefit from such a report, you may request that the judge order one and it will likely be your sole responsibility to pay for it. Prices vary. Though a full report can be quite costly, most parents who are having custody issues with a spouse agree that it is well worth the expense.
You may also incur additional expenses if you must higher a second person to assess the work of the initial report writer. Again, costs vary. If you need that individual to come to court, additional fees will likely be charged.
How are s.211 reports used?
When a judge orders one of these reports, he/she will provide the report writer with requests for the information he/she seeks. If you hire a private assessor, that person will also receive basic information and documents about the case as it stands now including info on parenting problems, disagreements, and other pertinent facts. The assessor will review these and may ask to speak to other individuals who can talk about your children’s needs.
Once completed, the document is then written and will include facts as well as the opinions of the professional writing the report. Once complete, it is presented to the judge.
It’s important to note that judges often rely heavily on s.211 Family Law Act reports, so if you take exception to something that’s been said in the report or you believe it contains inaccurate information, your lawyer may need to request that the writer be present in court where they can be questioned about their opinions.
We can help!
At the offices of Dr. Ellie Bolgar, we are intimately familiar with the s. 211 Family Law Act report and are available to write full reports, Views of the Child reports, and Hear the Child reports. With training in Collaborative Divorce, Family Mediation, Arbitration, and Child Interviewing, we stand ready to assist you in difficult divorce matters that are impacting your child(ren).
To learn more about these services, call 604-371-0198 and speak to a member of our staff.