Parenting and practice note 7: getting a psychologist involved
Written by Mat Wirove, Calgary Family Lawyer
In any parenting dispute during a divorce or separation, the Court’s main focus is on deciding what is in the best interest of the Children. In some cases of high conflict, the Court may require the assistance of a trained professional Parenting Expert. This is where Practice Note 7 comes into consideration as the purpose of a Practice Note 7 Intervention is to:
- Have a Parenting Expert, generally a psychologist, report back to the Court and assist the Court in identifying any challenges specific to the family and to facilitate resolution of those challenges with the assistance of the Parenting Expert; and
- Bring the Parenting Expert under the jurisdiction of the Court for the purposes of the family Law claim.
There are two primary types of Interventions that fall under Practice Note 7: Evaluative and Therapeutic. Evaluative Interventions provide information to the Court to assist in decision-making and include the following:
- Triage – to assess the family situation on a preliminary basis and provide a recommendation to the Court concerning the need for and type of intervention that may best meet the needs of the family;
- Voice of the Child Report – to canvass the views and needs of the Children, including information from parents and collaterals;
- Parent Psychological Evaluation – To address specific questions or concerns about the functioning of individual parents;
- Child/Adolescent Psychological Evaluation – To address specific questions or concerns about the individual functioning of the Child.
- Focused Assessment – To address a specific question.
Therapeutic Interventions work toward resolution of disputes, manage conflict and make changes in the existing family dynamic. They include:
- Therapeutic Intervention with one parent (counselling for one parent);
- Therapeutic Intervention with Both parents (post-separation/divorce counselling);
- Therapeutic Intervention with the Child only (counselling for the child);
- Therapeutic Intervention with Parents and Children (counselling for the entire family);
- Parent-Child Reunification (also known as remedial facilitated access).
It is also important to understand what Practice Note 7 Interventions are not used for. Some of the limitations and restrictions of a Practice Note 7 are:
- A Parenting Expert conducting a Practice Note 7 Intervention will not provide an opinion or recommendation on a new parenting schedule, parenting responsibilities, decision making, or relocation.
- A Parenting Expert who conducts a Practice Note 7 Intervention for a family cannot conduct a Practice Note 8 Child Custody/Parenting Evaluation for the same family.
- A Parenting Expert is not permitted to engage in both evaluative and therapeutic intervention for a single family, or member of the family, but may be able to conduct multiple therapeutic interventions in accordance with their code of conduct of their profession.
- Practice Note 7 does not apply to matters under the Child, Youth, and Family Enhancement Act.
- Practice Note 7 Interventions are not free, and the Court shall only order one if the parties are able to pay the cost of the Intervention, after considering any available subsidies.
It is generally understood that, where necessary, it is best to have Practice Note 7 Interventions conducted early on in a family law claim and completed quickly. It also should be noted that all the interventions in Practice Note 7 can be undertaken before or after a divorce judgement. As well these services can be accessed on a voluntary basis, or counsel for the parties in a divorce or Alberta family law action can seek an application in court.
Practice Note 7 has recently been updated as of May 1, 2019. https://albertacourts.ca/qb/areas-of-law/family/practice-notes
if you are considering engaging in a Practice Note 7 Therapeutic Intervention contact the Calgary family lawyers at Crossroads Law who have experience dealing with these interventions in parenting files after separation or divorce.