Parenting Plan Assessments

A comprehensive assessment service that evaluates each family member individually and together as a whole in the context of their extended family and greater community of involved professionals and agencies. It also provides the voice of the children in the full context of what is occurring in the family unit. It provides a clinical analysis followed by detailed recommendations regarding decision-making authority, parenting time during regular, holiday periods, and any other relevant clinical recommendations to improve the experience of children in their separated family.

Full assessment plan is adapted:

  • When parenting plan is required to determine parents’ wishes relating to their children.
  • Reaching agreements in high conflict co-parenting situations
  • Children are resisting/refusing to see a parent
  • Parent withholding a child and not permitting contact to the other parent
  • Allegations of negative parent influence/coaching/alienation
  • When parents have difficulty communicating about their children
  • When parents are unable to reach decisions about their children’s schooling, health services, religion, or activities
  • Parents who cannot agree on the views and preferences of their child and what is in their best interests
  • With younger children who cannot be reliably interviewed
  • For families with allegations of intimate partner violence – physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, or financial/legal
  • For families with allegations of parental substance abuse
  • For families with allegations mental health problems or significant physical illness
  • Child protection or involvement with police
  • Fear of abduction of the children
  • Children with special needs (emotional, behavioural, social, or cognitive)
  • Issues related to new partner and/or extended family
  • Grandparent seeking parenting time or decision-making authority

Benefits of a Private Parenting Plan Assessment

  • No court order needed (except section 30 assessments)
  • Faster than going through the application and intake system for subsidized government services.
  • Helps negotiations move forward in mediation outside of court
  • Parents are in control of their choice of assessor
  • Parents may receive reassurance that all of their concerns have been thoroughly assessed
  • Assesses complex and high conflict cases with more serious allegations and concerns (e.g., interpersonal partner violence, child resist-refuse dynamics, breakdown in parent-child relationships, mental health, addictions, criminal activity, etc.)
  • Process can be used for all children (pre-verbal to teenage)
  • Parents received a detailed recommended parenting plan, decision-making authority, breakdown of parental responsibilities, and other clinical recommendations

Issues to be assessed

  • Development, needs, and views and preferences of the child
  • Individual parent histories
  • Parent relationship history
  • Each parent’s parenting plan/proposal
  • Parent concerns and allegations (continued violence and threats post-separation, negative parental influence/coaching, alienation, child resistance/refusal to see another parent, mental health, substance use, criminal issues, parenting capacity/ability, parent conflict, inability for joint decision-making, etc.)
  • History of intimate partner violence and its impacts on parent communication and parenting
  • Observations of parent and child interactions
  • Obtaining reports and feedback from involved professionals with family
  • Interviewing important family members or friends connected with family
  • Voicing the experiences, views and preferences of the children and assessing them according to their strength, consistency and independence. Views and preferences ascertained through three individual interviews.
  • Positive and negative family dynamics at play
  • Parent’s strengths and points of concern
  • Detailed parenting plan recommendations outlining the decision-making responsibilities for education, health, religion, and extracurricular activities, as well as a parenting schedule plan for the school year, holidays, summer, etc. All of these recommendations and additional clinical recommendations represent the children’s best interests.

It is important to note that in the context of a parenting assessment, all discussions and communication with parents and children and other documents provided are open to being disclosed in the report, which is available to both parents, legal counsel and court. A final report is submitted to the parents and to the court, therefore the process needs to be totally transparent, honest and open.

Assessment Process

  1. Pre-assessment
  • Parents complete a private assessment contract and submit their respective retainers
  • Parents complete a pre-interview intake questionnaire and domestic violence screening tool prior to their individual interview
  1. Assessing the current family situation, each individual family member and parenting
  • Comprehensive individual parent interviews at your home and follow-up contact by telephone, Zoom or email. Parents are free to communicate new concerns or issues as they     arise during the assessment process.
  • family observation is conducted with each parent and their children. These observations should include all family members or persons normally living with the child at each home. In the event that a child is seeing a parent at a supervised access centre, the observation shall be conducted at that location.
  • For families with pre-verbal or young children with limited verbal abilities, there will be two family observations with each parent in their home environment.
  • Three individual interviews with the child at school (or daycare, day camp, alternating parent homes during the summer months). During the COVID pandemic, some     schools are not permitting these interviews at school. In this case, these interviews will alternate parent’s homes and the third interview can be split in half at each parent’s home if there is concern of parent influence and coaching. These interviews are spaced out over time to assess consistency over time and parents are usually not informed of the     particular date and time of these interviews to avoid purposeful or inadvertent influence on the child.
        For families with pre-verbal or young children with limited verbal abilities, the child will be observed with her/his peers at daycare or preschool (if relevant).
  1. Comprehensive examination of collateral information
  • Gathering all professional collateral information from professionals involved (e.g., police, child protection authorities, school, child’s doctors/ therapists/ psychologists/ psychiatrists/ counsellors/hospital records, parent’s doctors/ therapists /psychologists/ psychiatrists/ hospital records, etc. A police and child protection verification is done on new partners or other people living in the home.
  • In cases where psychological testing is preferred by parent(s)/counsel or court ordered, then parents may choose to have the testing piece completed by an independent psychologist. Parents may agree on a selected psychologist or Chantal may seek out a psychologist who is willing to provide this service. Parents are responsible for paying for the testing services separately. The psychologist’s verbal and written summary would form part of the professional collateral section of Chantal’s report.
  • Interviewing important personal collaterals, which include step-parents, step-siblings, half-siblings, and significant family members or friends who may offer an important context or point of view regarding the children or family pre- and post-separation.
  1. Verbal disclosure and submission of report
  • A verbal disclosure meeting is held at the end of the assessment process once all of the interviews have been completed and all of the information is collected. This meeting starts with an educational component but ultimately seeks to verbally disclose the information collected and give parents and their counsel the opportunity to ask any questions he/she may have about the process or content. An analysis of the family situation and detailed decision-making and parenting plan recommendations are provided. This is a unique opportunity for parents to work on negotiating a final agreement but they are not forced to do so.
  • Disclosure meetings are held virtually during COVID, at the office of one of the parent’s lawyers, parent’s mediator or an independent rented office space for this purpose.
  • A comprehensive final report is prepared and submitted to both parents and counsel in the form of a sworn affidavit at the disclosure meeting. During the COVID pandemic when meeting is virtual, a PDF version of the report shall be submitted to counsel and parents following the meeting and an original signed copy will be sent by mail to both parents and counsel. It is a lengthy document, which summarizes all of the information collected about the parents, parenting plans, parent concerns and allegations, family observations, children’s interviews, and professional and personal collateral information. It also provides clinical impressions in a discussion section and provides a detailed outline of decision-making and parenting plan recommendations. Also included are clinical recommendations that may be important for the parents to follow to ensure the best outcome for the child.
  1. Post-assessment
  • It is unusual that family court cases proceed all of the way to the point of a trial. However, parents may request or subpoena me to testify in the context of their family court trial. Upon receiving proper notification and having enough time for court preparation, I can be called as a witness at trial by either party. All information collected can be divulged and nothing is kept confidential. In private cases, the parent requesting me to testify at trial is responsible for covering the cost of preparation time, time at court and travel costs.
  1. Future Updates to the Assessment in the following situations
  • Family situation has significantly changed
  • Parent’s ability to co-parent has changed (better or worse)
  • Parents have sought help and improved a particular area of concern (e.g., mental health, substance abuse, impulse control, etc.)
  • New child protection or police involvement
  • Children’s views and preferences have changed
  • Children’s needs have changed as they have developed
  • New partners and siblings have impacted the family
  • Mobility – a parent is proposing to move far enough way to warrant a change to the parenting plan
  • Any other significant change to the child, parent and/or family as a whole
  1. Check-in interviews post-assessment
  • Schedule follow-up check-in interviews following the assessment to ensure the child is adapting well to new     parenting schedule


Generally, I aim to complete assessment cases within 90 days from the point of parent interviews to the point of holding the disclosure meeting, but this may take longer depending on delays in receiving collateral information or scheduling interviews. In order to facilitate the process, parents are asked to be flexible in scheduling their interview and observation times. During my involvement, parents are asked to inform me in advance if their child’s absence from school so that I can avoid needlessly attending the school and charging parents travel fees. There are some delays beyond my control associated with collateral professionals sending in reports or making themselves available for interviews.


Private custody and access evaluations are charged at a rate of $250 per hour (+ HST). A set travel fee is charged for interviews at parent’s homes or the child’s school. Additional fees charged by professional collaterals for disclosures. A parent can expect that an assessment typically takes a minimum of 40 hours, but this is dependent on each case and will inevitably go longer with more children and a bigger family network (i.e., blended families on both sides). Retainer fee of $10,000 required to start process. If parent interviews are longer, they communicate often or send a high volume of information to review, then more time is required. If a family has a lot of involved personal collaterals and professionals, then it will typically take more time to obtain, review and summarize this information. Time is also required to review legal documentation and other documentation (e.g., parent emails, texts, social media, etc.).

How to get started?

To initiate the assessment process, parents need to send in their respective contracts and retainers. Each parent will then receive a pre-interview intake questionnaire and domestic violence screening tool to complete prior to their scheduled individual parent interview. They will also be asked to provide a list of all professionals involved with themselves and their children so that parent consents may be prepared in advance of the individual parent interviews.

Focused Assessment Reports

  • In certain cases where there is one particular issue of contention, the parents may choose to opt for a focused assessment. This may include, but not limited to, choice of school, choice of medical or mental health evaluation/treatment, selection of sports/activities, etc.
  • In these cases, the process will be adapted to the needs of the family but typically include parent interviews, two children’s interviews and obtaining limited collateral information.