Forensic Assessment

Forensic assessment is related to disputes over parental responsibilities and rights which are not successfully resolved in mediation.

The Children’s Act 38 of 2005

Sections 18 to 23 of the Act detail what parental responsibilities and rights are and who possesses them. Responsibilities and rights include the care for, contact with and maintenance of children by their parents.

Section 7 of the Act outlines the best interests of the child as the standard which must be upheld when decisions about parental rights and responsibilities are made. Section 10 of the Act indicates that children, depending on their age, developmental level and maturity, should participate in the process of making decisions which affect them. This does not mean that children make the decisions, but rather that they are consulted to hear their views and these are taken into consideration within their best interests.

Section 33 of the Act requires that any disputes about parents’ responsibilities and rights should be attempted to be resolved first in mediation before resorting to going to court to resolve them. If parties are not able to reach a settlement or agree on a parenting plan in mediation then parents usually proceed to court for decisions to be made. Forensic assessment may be required to inform the court of the best interests of the child.

Forensic assessment involves full assessment of the child as well as of the parents and the interactions between the child and both parents. It is an intense process at the end of which a detailed report is presented for the court to consider in making a determination.

The cost of forensic assessment The cost of a forensic assessment is borne by the parent requesting the assessment, and both parents and the child are required to participate in the assessment process for the holistic and comprehensive assessment to be completed. It is considered to be a medico-legal process and medical aids will not bear the cost. It is an expensive process and best adverted by taking the mediation route.