On March 1, 2021, family law legislation changed the term "custody" to "decision-making responsibility," and changed the term "access" to "parenting time." General information regarding decision-making responsibility and parenting time can be obtained from Family Law Saskatchewan. Resources for developing parenting plans can be found on the Family Law Saskatchewan the Government of Canada websites.
The information below describes the specialized services available for high conflict situations: parenting assessments, supervised parenting time and supervised exchanges.
A judge may order an assessment to help decide the best parenting arrangements for children whose parents cannot agree on decision-making responsibility for their children and parenting time. The assessment is conducted by a qualified social worker who does not work for either parent and is only concerned with the best interests of the child(ren).
The social worker may:
- consider the family, marital and parenting background;
- speak to the parents about their views on their children's needs and the parenting arrangements;
- observe the children with each parent;
- interview teachers, doctors, new partners, friends and relatives;
- speak to the child, depending on the child's age; and
- look into other matters.
The social worker will prepare a report of their findings and recommendations. A copy will be provided to the parents and their lawyers and filed with the court. Once both parties have reviewed the report it is hoped they may reach a negotiated settlement on custody and access arrangements. If not, they may go back to the judge who made the assessment order and the judge will try to help them reach an agreement.
If the parents still cannot reach an agreement, a trial may occur. The assessment may be used and the social worker may be called as a witness.
Supervised Parenting Time/Exchange
Generally, the court considers that a child has a right to see and have a relationship with both parents. A court may order supervised parenting time if:
- the child and parent have had no contact for a long time and may need help re-establishing their relationship;
- the parent seeking parenting time has limited parenting skills;
- the parent has a history of abusing drugs or alcohol;
- the parent has a history of mentally, physically or sexually abusing the child; or
- there is a risk of the child being abducted by the parent.
The Supervised Parenting Time/Exchange Program is a service facilitated by social workers and trained observers. They provide the services necessary to ensure that children can spend time with their non-custodial parent in a safe setting.
Exchanges of the child may be supervised so the child does not have to see any conflict or violence between their parents. By using the supervised parenting time/exchange service, the child's anxiety is reduced. The exact service provided depends on the court order and the family's needs.
Supervised visits may occur at one of the centres located in Regina or Saskatoon. Parents can only use the supervised parenting time service if the court orders them to use the service. Program workers monitor the situation according to the terms of the order.
Parents can access supervised exchange services by agreement or by a court order.