Custody & Access Assessments
We provide separation/divorce mediation, post-separation and divorce family restructuring, treat parental alienation concerns, and conduct court-ordered custody and access evaluations for high conflict couples.
Terms and Information for Lawyers and Parents Requesting Custody & Access Assessments
All Lawyers and Parents must follow this process if they wish to receive Custody & Access Services.
Custody & Access evaluations are conducted as a team approach by Dr. Mills and David Currie, MSW, RSW. Both Dr. Mills and Mr. Currie are registered practitioners with certified training in conducting custody and access assessments. Dr. Mills is a Diplomate in Clinical Psychology and Psychoanalysis with the American Board of Professional Psychology, which is a recognition and certification of advanced competence far above the credentialing standard required in Ontario. It is the highest credential any practicing psychologist can achieve in North America. Dr. Mills has been a practicing clinician and consultant for over twenty-five years with a wealth of experience specializing in the assessment and treatment of childhood, adolescent, and adult psychopathology. He is also an expert in assessing attachment processes between parents and children and treating attachment disruptions, which is the subject matter of his ninth book,Treating Attachment Pathology. Mr. Currie is a registered social worker with the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers. He specializes in the assessment and treatment of children, youth, and their families, determines parental capacity, provides parenting coordination, family restructuring, and conflict mediation, and addresses the specific concerns of high conflict couples where children are affected.
Why use an Interdisciplinary Team Approach?
Custody and access determinations are one of the most important decisions any professional can make. The stakes are extremely high because they are ultimately about the psychological welfare of children. The end result is a major life event that impacts on the entire lives of everyone involved, and it has profound implications for children's adjustment.
Psychologists and social workers have different specializations and training, although they may overlap in many important respects. A psychologist has many years of graduate and post-doctoral training, supervision, and clinical skill development, and is trained in clinical psychodiagnostics and in the administration, scoring, and interpretation of psychological tests. Psychiatrists and other mental health therapists are not. Social workers, on the other hand, are specifically trained to deal with child and family matters, relationship conflicts, divorce and family mediation, and intervene on behalf of the child. Both professionals ultimately act with the best interests of the child in mind in accordance with the law.
An interdisciplinary team approach has many advantages over a professional working alone. There is better objectivity when two professionals are involved, which reduces possible subjective bias during the evaluation process. Different perspectives can be more readily identified and integrated into the decision making process, and the separation of roles allows for each clinician to focus on their competency areas and inform the other professional on their level of expertise. This collaborative approach also leads to checks and balances in the decision making process that provides more optimal impartiality, clarity, and informed direction.
Uniform Custody Evaluation Procedure
What distinguishes our interdisciplinary team approach from typical custody and access assessments performed by other mental health professionals is the depth and thoroughness of our evaluation procedure. We follow a uniform evaluation protocol where each identified caregiver is subjected to the following process:
Given a battery of psychological and cognitive tests
Determines the quality of parenting capacity for each identified parent or caregiver
Undergoes an attachment assessment with each child and parent in both office and home observations on multiple occasions
Conducts an assessment of each child
Provides a detailed report on the psychological and cognitive profile of each parent (if required)
Evaluates the interrelationships among each of the family members in question
Provides attachment observation results
Addresses parent-child and relevant family dynamics
Gives a clinical risk profile (when necessary)
Provides a detailed report and parenting plan that will likely serve as the basis for a settlement
Specifies clear, decisive, and unambiguous recommendations regarding the referral questions, parenting strengths and deficits, and custody and access recommendations that address the needs of identified agencies, individuals, or court goals
We follow an impartial, non-biased, uniform assessment procedure where both opposing parties are treated the same. When Mills Psychology is contracted for a C & A assessment, we directly provide an intake package to the parents once we receive their consent to do so. We do accept Section 30 assessments and ask that both parents and counsel consent to our appointment to conduct the court-ordered assessment. Once we have been retained to conduct the assessment, we will have a conference call with both counsel if required. Next, we prefer to have an orientation meeting with both parents during which we review in detail what the assessment will involve and the assessment retainer contract, which the parents are asked to sign. Relevant releases of information are also signed during this meeting and subsequent meetings when deemed necessary. Questions about the process are addressed. The assessment is expedited considerably by having this first interview jointly. In this way we do not have to go over the same material twice and thus the cost/hours are kept down. We are sensitive to the fact that a joint interview may be difficult for one or both parents. While we prefer to begin with a joint session, it is not mandatory; therefore alternative arrangements can be made by seeing each parent separately.
The estimated time for the completion of most assessments range from 50-75 hours, although this can vary depending on the number of children, the extent of psychological testing required, and the number of collateral sources contacted. The OPA hourly rate is $225.00 for any time or activity spent on the case. A retainer is required in the amount of $7,500.00 before the assessment is initiated. There will be a request for an additional retainer for anticipated work to complete the assessment when the original retainer runs out. Any unused portion of the retainer will be returned if the assessment is completed or terminated prior to that point. If the assessment is aborted or terminated, there will be an administrative cost of $300.
There is no OHIP coverage for this type of service, but parties can claim workplace insurance coverage for any members of the family covered under their extended health insurance plan. All workplace insurance plans vary, so each party will need to clarify how much coverage per family member is covered under their plan in each calender year. Usually both parents and children would have some coverage if they are not self-employed. Legal Aid is not accepted, primarily because the certificates granted do not allow for sufficient hours to conduct the assessment protocol provided.
The average C & A assessment costs between $16,000 - $20,000 depending upon how many parties are involved. This may seem like a lot of money, but because the decision making process is so vital to the welfare of children, we only act in the most comprehensive and conscientious professional manner. Clients who wish to cut costs for cheaper assessors may also cut quality of service. As mentioned before, clients may have Extended Health Benefits that cover some or all of the fees; so they will need to carefully check with their insurance providers to determine what their coverage is for registered clinical psychologists per renewal year.
Designated Professional Roles
In order to have clear and unambiguous roles in the evaluation process, the following conditions apply:
Dr. Mills will perform a psychological assessment of each parent or guardian involved in the case. The cost is a flat fee of $3500 for each person.
Mr. Currie is the identified assessor and will conduct his own independent evaluation of the parents, children, and collaterial review.
Dr. Mills will report his assessment findings to Mr. Currie, which may become part of his findings or recommendations.
Mr. Currie will prepare reccommendations based on the overall results and findings of the evaluation in the efforts to provide a custody schedule that both parties will find satisfactory.
Upon completion of the assessment, a feedback session is held to discuss our findings and recommendations. At this time, an extensive and detailed report including a Parenting Plan that delineates Recommendations will be provided, which may provide a basis for a settlement. Recommendations are based on multiple forms of collected data including the Criteria of the Best Interest of the Child according to the Children's Law Reform Act.
In the event that Dr. Mills' or Mr. Currie's presence is required in court, we will bill at the OPA hourly rate of $225.00 for any time that is requested to prepare for court appearance including travel time and time away from our offices and patients. All fees for services during or after the assessment are to be paid either by both parents/counsel equally or by any formula agreed upon by the parties involved. In the event that we are being asked to testify in court, the party requesting our presence shall be responsible for paying our fees unless otherwise negotiated by both parties and their counsel.
Steps All Parents and Counsel Must Follow
In order to prevent any perceived notion of bias or manipulation from either party, Mills Psychology must be retainedbeforewe speak to either parent or their counsel. We will not return phone calls or discuss the details of the case until we are appointed by the Courts or formally agreed upon by both counsel in writing to conduct the assessment. Dr. Mills' and Mr. Currie's CV detailing their credentials and qualifications may be downloaded by visiting our About Staff page. The following conditions apply:
Mills Psychology must be appointed by the Courts and mutually agreed upon in writing by both legal counsel to conduct a C & A evaluation.
A $7,500 retainer must be received before the assessment will be initiated.
There will be no discussion with legal counsel or parents prior to our appointment in order to prevent perceived bias or manipulation by either party.
Once retained, each party will be contacted to arrange the first initial meeting.
Parents/guardians will be asked to review and sign a contract on the terms of the assessment during the initial meeting. The contract will not be distributed prior to this time.
Dr. Mills will perform the psychological assessments of each parent/guardian involved and the results will ONLY be communicated to Mr. Currie.
Mr. Currie will assume the role of assessor and meet with the parents and children, correspond with legal counsel, and perform collateral background checks to determine his recommendations.
A Parenting Plan Report will be prepared and a feedback session will be conducted with both parties and their counsel in the hopes that a settlement can be reached.
Assessments begin on a first-come, first-served basis from the time the completed intake questionnaires and the retainer are received from both parents. Assessments usually take 2-3 months to complete once initiated.
Please download these Custody & Access Assessment Instructions for having Mills Psychology appointed by the Courts to conduct a Custody & Access Assessment. These instructions must be followed by all parties or we will not take on your case.
We will not speak to parents or legal counsel prior to being retained in order to prevent any possibility of manipulation or perceived bias from any party involved in the case. We are only interested in conducting such assessments free from obstruction, deception, or politics. By not talking to lawyers or parents prior to being court appointed and retained, we ensure that all parties cannot "feel out" the assessor in order to select someone favorable or well-suited to their particular position. As impartial, non-biased assessors, we show no preference or favoritism for our clientele.
Information that is not provided to lawyers and parents is the following:
No previous names or number of cases assessed will be revealed
No sample reports are given out for review
Dr. Mills does not conduct critiques of previous PCAs or C & A Reports conducted by other assessors