This is a comprehensive family assessment by a qualified and experienced mental health practitioner which evaluates the individuals needs of the child in relation to the abilities of each parent and the quality of family relationships. The assessment typically provides information related to and recommendations about the most appropriate residential schedule for the child and the most appropriate structure for making child-related decisions. This assists the parents and judges in deciding on a plan that is in the best interests of the child for the particular family. These assessments are often helpful when: other methods of dispute resolution have been unsuccessful and the parents continue to have very different views of the best parenting plan; or there are very serious concerns about the child and/or the parenting ability of one or both parents.
The assessment involves an objective, structured approach with information gathered from many sources and through varied methods. Information is gathered from clinical interviews, parent-child observations, collateral interviews/reports, psychological testing, review of court material, etc. The process usually involves a 3-4 month period, and is not confidential as information is shared with counsel and the court.