In the event of a couple’s separation, the issue of child custody may arise. In British Columbia, courts tend to go along with parental arrangements that are aligned with the child’s best interests.
Usually, the court decision is based on a parenting plan that can meet the child’s needs effectively, which both parents agree with. However, it is not always possible for ex-partners to come to a mutual agreement and understanding.
In this case, the court can order a section 211 report from a third party to assist the court in determining the best possible parenting arrangements for the child. This blog post outlines what you need to know about an s.211 report.
What is a Section 211 report?
As per section 211 of the Family Law Act, the report is an assessment completed by a family justice counsellor, a social worker, or a psychologist to determine the needs of a child.
A s.211 report will contain information regarding the needs and views of a child, and the ability of each parent to satisfy the needs and interests of the child.
The assessor will obtain the above information through a variety of procedures such as interviewing the individuals involved (each parent and child), observing the individuals, and gathering information from different sources (teachers, physicians, counsellors, etc.).
This assessment is usually ordered by a judge when there are disputes between parents about the arrangements of a child’s care. With the report and suggestions provided by the assessor, the court will be more equipped to determine a custody arrangement that will best suit the needs of the child.
Why Should I Get a s.211 Report?
You can get an s.211 report if you are not able to come to an agreement with your former partner with respect to the parenting arrangements of your child/children. In the case where you feel that it is unsafe for your child/children to live with your former partner due to abuse, neglect, or other factors, it may be necessary for you to get an s.211 report.
A s.211 report is useful to encourage settlement or to assist the court in determining which parent or guardian could provide better care for a child.
You should note that while the s.211 will not dictate the outcome of a custody trial, the court will refer to the recommendations and assessment evidence given by the assessor, and decide the best possible arrangement that acts in the best interests of the child.
What Are My Options For a s.211 Report?
There are two options you can choose from when it comes to obtaining an s.211 report:
Psychologists and counsellors
You could order a private assessment from a psychologist or counsellor. With this option, you will most likely be able to get the report done relatively quickly.
However, there is a cost involved — these fees can range from a few to tens of thousands of dollars. The price can get even higher if the assessor is called as a witness and has to attend court.
Family justice counsellors
Not everyone is financially capable of paying considerable sums to get a private assessment. For those who are constrained by budget, the court may order an assessment to be completed by a family justice counsellors or your lawyer may request the court to order a court ordered s. 211 report.
These counsellors are employed by the province and the assessments are free of charge. However, there is a high demand for counsellor assessments as the threshold to order an s.211 report is low. As a result, these reports can take several months, or even up to a year to reach completion.
What Happens If My Former Spouse Gets a s.211 Report That I Don’t Agree With?
Are you finding yourself disagreeing with your ex-partner’s s.211 report? There have been cases where a court has ruled against the recommendation of a report.
If you think that your ex-partner’s s.211 report is inaccurate or fallacious, you could get help from an experienced Family Law lawyer to challenge the findings of the report in court.
Some of the measurements a lawyer would take to challenge the results of an assessment are:
- cross-examining the assessor who wrote the report;
- reviewing all evidence or documentation thoroughly; and
- seeking opinions from other experts in the field.
Keep in mind that, at the end of the day, the report merely serves as a guide for the court. Ultimately, it is the judge’s decision when it comes to awarding a parent or guardian with custody of a child.
A s.211 report is useful when you are sure that your partner is less able to provide for your child/children, and you know that your parenting plans serve the interests of your child/children better.
Otherwise, it is often the case that the best arrangement you could make for your child/children is one that is discussed and planned between you and the other parent. A s.211 report is prepared by an outsider, albeit professional, who may not have generated an accurate picture of your family dynamics nor provided the best recommendations.
Disclaimer – The information contained herein is of a general nature. It is not intended to be legal advice and it is not intended to address the exact circumstances of any particular individual or entity. No one should rely on or act upon such information without receiving appropriate professional advice and without a thorough examination of their particular situation. Please contact our office if you have any questions with respect to the content of this entry, this website, or our Terms and Conditions .