Family Court Counsellors' OfficeThe Family Court Counsellors’ Office provides for two service programs:
1. Child Custody/Access Parenting Arrangements Assessments (also known as Homestudies). These assessments may be ordered by the court in a custody/access case and cannot be initiated by self referral.
2. Mediation Services This service is provided free of charge to parents to assist in the settlement of child custody, access and child support issues in the best interests of their child(ren). Mediation can result in parents establishing a parenting arrangement agreement and is often a viable alternative to proceeding to court. Participation in mediation is voluntary and may be initiated by self referral. A court order is not required to engage this service.
What are Child Custody/Access Parenting Arrangements Assessments?
A Child Custody/Access Parenting Arrangements Assessment is a court ordered assessment undertaken by a Family Court Clinician to determine the needs of the child(ren), and the parent’s ability and willingness to satisfy their child(ren)’s needs.
The assessment report is filed with the court in legal proceedings to assist the court in determining an appropriate parenting arrangement for the child(ren).
The Court may order one of the following assessment types:
Comprehensive Assessment - The Comprehensive Assessment includes:
(a) A series of interviews with each party to gather required descriptive information on the parties’ personal history, the children’s parenting history and the parents’ plans of care;
(b) A home based introduction of the assessor to the children in both parent’s homes; and
(c) A school based interview for children 7+ years old.
Interviews of the children assess: developmental characteristics of the child; the child’s understanding of their parenting arrangement; the child’s views and preferences; and any impacts the child may be experiencing as a result of any voluntary or interim parenting arrangement.
Mandatory consents are required for the release of personal information regarding the parties, including a criminal records check and the history of any police and child protection involved with the family. The children’s school/day care information is also required.
The parties may also be requested to consent to the release of additional personal information determined to be relevant by the assessing Family Court Clinician, such as medical, addiction and mental health information.
Recommendations concerning the parenting arrangement are provided in all comprehensive assessments. Time frame - 4-6 months following commencement.
Focused or Brief Assessment - Special instruction authorizations, such as a views and preferences interview of a child 12+ years old. Most often parenting arrangement recommendations are not provided. Limited recommendations may be provided where requested by the authorizing Judge. Time frame - 4-6 weeks following commencement.
Update Assessment - is ordered to cover a time period since the filing of an earlier assessment report. Updated parenting arrangement recommendations can be provided. Time frame - 3-6 months following commencement.
Out-of-Province Assessment - Assessments where one of the parties resides in a province other than PEI. The Family Court Counsellors’ Office can make arrangements to contract with a clinician in the other province where one party resides, however, the parties may be responsible for any charges for the out of province portion of the assessment. Parenting arrangement recommendations are provided because two different clinicians are involved completing different portions of the assessment. Time frame - 4-6 months following commencement.
Please note that there is usually a waiting period between when a court orders an assessment and the assessment being commenced.
Is there a cost for assessment service?
There is no charge for in province assessments. There is a charge for an out of province assessment, in accordance with provincial policy.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a process that people can use to resolve child custody/access parenting arrangement and/or child support disputes with the help of a neutral third party who is trained to help people discuss their differences. The mediator helps the parties work out their own solutions to problems in the best interests of their child(ren).
What is the Mediators’ Role?
The mediator acts primarily as a facilitator working with parents in developing parenting plans that are acceptable to both parties. During the mediation process, the mediator helps the parents define the issues in dispute, identify the interests of the children and the parents in order to develop a plan that is sustainable and sensitive to the needs of the child(ren).
During the process, the mediator may provide neutral evaluation to assist parties in reaching an agreement and, when appropriate, information on child development as it relates to children living between two homes.
The mediator will assist the parties with the writing of their proposed parenting arrangements agreement. The mediator will advise the parties to review any written agreement with their lawyer before proceeding further.
Do I need a Lawyer during the mediation process?
While neutral legal information may be made available to the participants, the mediator does not represent either party, does not give legal advice and does not take the place of a lawyer. Each party is encouraged to obtain independent legal advice throughout the mediation process and each party may review their final mediated agreement with their lawyer prior to signing.
Can the Mediator make a decision if the parties can’t agree?
Mediation is not a form of Arbitration or formal Conciliation where a third party authority has powers to either decide or to compel a decision. A mediator does not act as a lawyer or counselor for either party. The mediator does not decide who is right or wrong in a disagreement. Although the mediator may provide general legal information, the mediator does not represent either parent or provide legal advice.
When is Mediation not appropriate?
Parties in mediation must be able to negotiate safely, voluntarily and competently in order to reach a fair agreement that is in the best interests of their child(ren). Mediation is not considered appropriate when there is a history of family violence in the relationship and/or if one of the parties is fearful for her/his safety. As each family situation is different the mediator will screen each case individually to assess whether the case is appropriate for mediation.
Where mediation is not appropriate or the parties are unable to reach an agreement, other legal avenues remain open to them.
Is there a cost for mediation service?
There is no cost to the parties for this service.
General Contact Information
1 Harbourside Access Road
Nissen, Marie (Administrative Assistant, Family Court Counsellors' Office)
Gallant, Darrell (Mediator, Family Court Counsellors' Office)
Oftedahl, Randall (Clinician, Family Court Counsellor's Office)
Stanley, Ron (Coordinator, Family Court Counsellors' Office)