– By Marlise Foster, Legal Assistant
Section 211 Reports
Anyone sitting in family chambers will hear the term “211 report” referred to frequently by counsel and judges. While it’s easy to access section 211 of the Family Law Act to see the legal requirements for the report, the section doesn’t have much practical guidance for those who are not familiar with them. For instance, when are they ordered, how long do they take, and how much do they cost?
A Section 211 report is a report prepared by a professional such as a psychologist, clinical counsellor, or family justice counselor to assist the court in making parenting orders.
The report is a recommendation or expert opinion about the best parenting arrangement for a child. It is NOT an Order. It is an assessment of the best interests of the child and each parent’s ability to meet the child’s needs.
There is no specific timeline in which a Section 211 report should be prepared. It can take up to several months to complete a full Section 211 Report because not only the child and parents are interviewed. Family, friends, colleagues, teachers and others (also referred to as collaterals) with knowledge of the situation may also be contacted to provide relevant feedback. The Report writer may decide to visit the parties and others in their home environment to get a firsthand impression of the family dynamics.
Sometimes a judge may order that only a Views of the Child report be prepared. In this case the writer of the report meets only with the child. The writer will prepare a summary of his discussion with the child, and an assessment of his views of the child. This may include the writer’s opinion on whether the child was coached by one or both parents, the behaviour of the child, the ability and capability of the child to express his views, concerns, wishes, etc.
Another report that may be ordered is a Hear the Child report. In this instance the report writer meets with the child to ask questions and then prepare a summary of the discussion with the child. This report does not include an assessment of the views of the child.
The completed Section 211 report must be provided to the parties involved in the family law dispute as well as the judge. The judge will determine if or to what extent the report will be entered into an Order.
The cost of a Section 211 report:
A report prepared by psychologists will generally include psychological assessment of the parties, making it a costly endeavor. Parties should budget for at least $10,000.00 – $15,000.00. Usually the parties will each pay 50% of the cost, but a judge may determine that parties should pay for the Section 211 report according to their respective incomes, or that one party must pay for the report.
A Views of the Child report or Hear the Child report are generally much cheaper.
The complexity of a case, whether the report writer is required to travel (ie. if a report writer needs to travel from Vancouver to Prince George or across provincial borders to meet with a party), the number of collateral interviews, and how much materials the writer needs to review (affidavits and pleadings regarding the case) also needs to be taken into account in determining the total cost of the report.
Parties with low income may qualify for a free Section 211 report prepared by a Family Justice Counsellor. Unfortunately, there are usually long wait times before the parties my be able to meet with a Family Justice Counsellor to have a report prepared.