Nanaimo based psychologist Dr. Shred has worked in the psychology field for over 20 years and has been a practicing psychologist in BC for the last 13 years. When asked if judges give considerable weight to the custody & access reports Dr. Shred said, “I think it depends on the judge. My experience has been some judges really put a lot of weight in them, not just expert opinion but something closer to truth.” Adding that “other judges really don’t care what the psychologist says and they are going to do something different. For the most part, they [custody and access reports] are given a lot of consideration, but judges are not mandated to follow or agree with the results of the custody and access reports, or Section 15 assessments, as they are also known.” When asked to comment on the assertion of some reports which have claimed there is no consistent standards or directives that bind all professionals in preparation of the reports, the doctor explained that, “There are definitely sets of standards. I have three main ones that I go by, the first one is the College of Psychologists of BC, which has a code of conduct with clear guidelines on how you are supposed to conduct an assessment.”  He noted that “more detailed guidelines come from the American Psychological Association which have specific sets for doing custody and access evaluations and parenting evaluations. Above both of those, is the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, (AFCC). It is an international organization based in America, there is only one branch in Canada, in Ontario.” The AFCC has Brief Focus Assessments that can be done if the court wants a particular question answered, “The question for a brief focus evaluation would be, If parent A had a drinking problem, does the drinking problem interfere with the parenting of the children?” In which case, according to the doctor, the evaluation would focus on answering that court initiated question. When asked what percentage of the time would be spent on testing parents vs children? Dr. Shred answered, “I almost never test the children, for anything. The only testing I do is on the parent and it’s more along the lines of personality tests. The MMPI-2 (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory), Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory-III, they are both personality tests,” they look for the existence of psychopathology patterns in a parent.” Dr. Shred also typically uses an anger scale to see how much anger there may be in parents, or caregiver, and the ways of managing and dealing with it if it exists in any significant way. Given the arbitrary weight placed on the Section 15 assessments, the court ordered decree of custody – defined and used by the Divorce Act as “the right to exercise parental authority over a child, the right to say how a child is raised, and make decisions on behalf of the child[…]”

It shows how an instrument of power, like a mechanical advantage, is passed and protected by disinterested law in the event of a dispute between parents. With such an imbalance of power it allows a parent (in the following instance the mother) to exercise subtle or overt acts of intimidation against the other parent, clearly there is very little constraint on one parents ability to begin and escalate a conflict by having the legal sanction of power and control, that very thing so often cited as ‘bad dynamic’ in domestic violence arguments.

Plus, intimidation is arguably an act of violence. In a recent court case, (May 13th 2013), there was disagreement between the mother and father over the course of action to take regarding their sons behavioural problems. The mother, and custodial parent, claimed the problem “is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (“ADHD”), though, according to the respondent (father), is probably not ADHD and may be related to anxiety or depression.” The father was against drugging his child to correct his son’s behaviour and the mother was in favour of a drug solution. It ended up in the British Columbia Supreme Court where Justice Melnick concluded that, “in the event that the parties cannot reach agreement on a significant decision despite their best efforts, the party with the primary residence of the child will be entitled to make those decisions and the other party will have the right to apply for an order respecting any decision the party considers contrary to the best interests of the child.” In the conclusion Justice Melnick wrote: “In any event, the claimant has sole authority to enter into the agreements with Surrey Memorial Hospital and the Boys’ and Girls’ Club as noted above.” In other words – the status quo stands. The mother also want’s her son to join and have a Big Brother, the father argued against it stating that the child has a father, therefore is in no need of a Big Brother. The mother initiated the court case against the father because he refused to sign over permission to have his son on drug therapy. He lost and was charged $750 to be awarded to his ex-wife – he was effectively de-parented.