AngelNote: This is a very concerning article that would effectively disallow litigants to hold custody evaluators, psychologists, etc. accountable for their actions.  While in Canada, no doubt attempts to implement some similar law in the U.S. will be filtering southward...Heads up.


Canadian law must be changed to make it far more difficult for disgruntled parents to file disciplinary charges against psychologists, psychiatrists and other health professionals who do assessments in child-custody cases, says a group of leading lawyers and therapists.

The complaints submitted to professional bodies by the losing side in custody battles are turning experts off the important work, the group says in a discussion paper. The result is a "major social and legal problem," it says.

The group urges changing the rules so disciplinary bodies can only consider complaints from such parents if they have been first approved by the judge in the case or by the other, winning parent, or have been screened to weed out frivolous grievances.

"The family law justice system is seriously undermined every time a vexatious complaint is made by a parent to the college," said the paper signed by 11 psychologists, psychiatrists, lawyers and social workers. "It feels like a professional sucker punch and has no correlation to the skill, experience and savvy of the assessor."

Earlier this year, the Ontario Medical Association's board directed its staff to work with other professionals to push for changes to protect members against such complaints.

A parents-rights organization, however, says people embroiled in emotional disputes often feel the assessor is biased against one side, and need some recourse to question their professionalism.

Kris Titus of the Canadian Equal Parenting Council said she has heard from parents about psychologists or others who will spend a whole day with one parent in their home, and an hour in a "sterile" office environment with the other.

Or, in some cases, parents suspect the assessor appointed by the court is a "hired gun," inclined to reach a predetermined conclusion.

"When you're dealing with children, where every decision made is essentially going to affect someone's entire future, there has to be strict regulation of assessors," Ms. Titus said. "There are some assessors we have heard multiple complaints about."

The experts are appointed jointly in custody cases to interview, observe and sometime conduct psychological testing on family members to help determine who is best able to care for the children of divorces. The work can take months and cost the parties up to $75,000.

The lobby group is not looking to gain "immunity" for assessors from disciplinary charges, only to curb the high number of spurious complaints, said Nick Bala, a Queen's University law professor.

The report suggests three options, based partly on legislation in a handful of U.S. states.

-Require that a judge approve any disciplinary complaint, ensuring that it is more than merely an attack on the assessor's conclusions.

-Require that the complaint be approved by both parents, again making it less likely the grievance will be just another appeal by the losing party.

-Set up a vetting process within regulatory bodies that would throw out vexatious complaints before they are formally investigated.

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