What is Practice Note 7?
Practice Note 7 relates to the use of independent parenting experts conducted for cases in the Court of Queen’s Bench. Practice notes define various processes available to parties by way of court order. The service is therefore provided through a Court Order and your legal counsel requests the service for you. Usually, the Order outlines funding, time-lines for funding and parent responsibility for funding. The Order also outlines the intended use of the letter or report provided by the parenting expert (for interim applications, trials or both).
Practice Note 7 relates to the use of independent parenting experts conducted for cases in the Court of Queen's Bench. Practice notes define various processes available to parties by way of court order. The service is therefore provided through a Court Order and your legal counsel requests the service for you. Usually, the Order outlines funding, time-lines for funding and parent responsibility for funding. The Order also outlines the intended use of the letter or report provided by the parenting expert (for interim applications, trials or both).
It is used when: a) Families are experiencing an impasse; b) Intervention of the Court is required; and c) The court requires assistance from parenting experts. The practice note process is used to target specific issues in the family and facilitate resolution and, if a resolution is not possible, to provide for an objective assessment of the family by a parenting expert as a litigation aid to assist the court in addressing the best interests of the children. You will either be referred for intervention or assessment.
The parenting expert can consult the court at any time during the intervention or assessment provided legal counsel has also been consulted. First legal counsel has an opportunity to respond and then, the expert can consult the court. Usually, the parenting expert will consult if a party withdraws from an intervention or assessment, where a party fails to cooperate with the parenting expert or if the parenting expert fees for the intervention or assessment are not paid as directed by the court.
What Processes Does Practice Note 7 Provide?
Two kinds of procedures may be utilized: Interventions (both long and short-term) and Assessments. An intervention may include: counseling/therapy, educational sessions, parenting plan development, parallel parenting plan development, evaluation (evaluating a particular issue related to the family), canvassing (gaining the specific needs , or where appropriate, the wishes of the children), remedial facilitated access: between parent and child and recommendations of what the family needs – i.e., counseling, mediation/arbitration etc.
Assessments may be ordered to assist the court in determining the best interests of the children and are generally used when parties are going to trial and the court has to determine parenting arrangements. Assessments are objective neutral evaluations carried out by a parenting expert. The assessment may include only one child and one parent/home or all parties. After the court reviews an assessment report, it may be possible for the court to order the expert to conduct further reviews or updated assessments.
Confidentiality and Sharing
Any written letters or reports go to the court and legal counsel. Provisions will be made for parties to review any written material either with the author or with legal counsel. Parents do not receive a copy of the report or letter(s). Assessments are not confidential and the only exception to this rule is if children are deemed to be placed at risk if particular information shared by them is disclosed. The court has the discretion to keep information shared by children confidential (if necessary).
If the parenting expert feels that termination of services is necessary, the expert will write a report or letter to the court and legal counsel to describe why and to provide any further suggestions as to what the family needs.
Limitations to Practice Note 7
The Practice Note takes into account the limitations imposed on Parenting Experts by their professional bodies that govern them and has been prepared in consultation with the College of Alberta Psychologists and the Alberta College of Social Workers. Practice Note 7 does not apply to matters under the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act, R.S. A. 2000, C. C-12.
Question: If my child is in counseling, can their counselor later be ordered to act as the parenting specialist to provide a Practice Note 7 intervention?
Answer: Child therapists are meant to be a support to your child and to give the parents suggestions and ideas regarding parenting children after separation. If a Parenting Expert becomes involved he/she would most likely ask the child therapist for any input or recommendations as part of their report back to the court.
Question: When, if ever, would my child’s therapist provide a report to the court?
Answer: Only if the therapist is ordered to provide a service and feedback to the court at the outset of counseling.
Question: What if I am concerned about my child’s other parent and I would like my child’s therapist to provide feedback in writing about any emerging concerns about that parent?
Answer: The child therapist will likely remain involved as your child’s therapist and refer you and the other parent to either a Practice Note 7 assessment or a full bilateral assessment process. Child therapists do not formally evaluate the parents.
For information on Practice Note 7 Interventions please visit: COURT OF QUEEN’S BENCH OF ALBERTA FAMILY LAW PRACTICE NOTE “7” (pdf)