This project aimed to identify issues with the way that s.15 reports are completed and used by courts and to provide recommendations to improve them.
Why this project?
Section 15 of the Family Relations Act allows a court in British Columbia to order custody and access assessments to be completed within a family law dispute. These assessments, called s.15 reports, are meant to provide information to the court about the best custody and access arrangement for the parties and their children. They are completed by social workers, family justice counsellors, psychologists, and registered counsellors. Our project aimed to identify issues with the way these reports are completed and used by the courts in order to improve them.
What we did
Our research methods in this study included a respectful approach to women’s lived experiences, informed by the recognition of existing inequalities, systemic discrimination, and gender bias in our society. We engaged in discussions, focus groups, and telephone and email correspondence with women, front-line advocates, assessors, and lawyers throughout the preparation of this report, and also conducted legal and academic research.
Through this process, we identified several major issues, including:
- A lack of standardized reporting;
- Inadequate assessor guidelines and training in the areas of violence identification and cultural/linguistic biases;
- Delays in reporting;
- The high costs of having a s.15 report completed; and
- Privacy concerns for those involved in a s.15 report process.