In parenting cases, the primary consideration is the child’s best interests.

Parties are referred to the child responsive program which will help in making arrangements for the care of the child.

Parenting matters are handled delicately by the court in accordance with the Family Law Act’s mandate that the child’s best interest should always prevail. The law requires of courts to proceed with great care when children are involved, and measures will be taken to make the process of making parenting arrangements as easy as possible. One of these measures enacted is the child responsive program.

What is the child responsive program?

It is a series of meetings held between the Family Consultant, the parents and the child. It is a preliminary process to an application filed in court that concerns parenting. The meetings are meant to aid the court and the parents to come up with the best arrangements for the child.

What are the processes involved in the program?

Upon receipt of the application, a date will be set for the Directions Hearing before the court’s Registrar. During this hearing, the parties will be directed to attend the child responsive program.

The first step in the program proper is the intake assessment wherein the family consultant will meet separately with the parents. They will talk about their proposals and plans on how to care for the child. They will also be discussing the issues the parent has with the other parent. At this time, the family consultant will decide and inform the parties whether he plans to a have family and child meeting or a selective settlement meeting.

A family and child meeting is where the family consultant meets and talks with the child and the parents without the presence of lawyers. A selective settlement meeting is when the family consultant meets at a negotiation table with the parents together with their lawyers.

After conducting any of the two meetings, the family consultant will make the Child Responsive Program Memorandum which is a written document that will be submitted to the court. Attached to the memorandum is the family consultant’s Children and Parents Assessment.

The assessment reports to the court factual details gathered by the consultant from his observation and interview with the parties. The memorandum will also contain the proposals of the parents for the care arrangements of their child.

The family consultant will be making his recommendations to the court via the memorandum. The consultant may advise that the parties should be referred to counselling, the child should have an independent lawyer, or that the case is raised to a less adversarial trial. The family consultant will inform the court if a notice of the risk of abuse has been filed or if the case should be referred to the Magellan program.

What should parents do during the program?

Parents should be honest and coordinate with the family consultant. They should not fabricate stories when talking with the consultant but should aspire to achieve the best possible outcome for the child. Parents must inform the consultant if they have any parenting agreements as this will facilitate the easier transition for the child. Any agreements between the parents will be reported by the consultant to the court.