What is expert family consultation?

Expert family consultation is a new service being offered to separated families. The aims of the service are:

  1. To make an assessment of the separated family system, the issues in dispute, and the best interests of the children; then,
  2. To individually tailor goals and a case plan for the family; then,
  3. To help each family member implement and follow the case plan effectively to achieve the outcome goals.

The expert family consultation service has a therapeutic focus. However, it is less client-directed than family therapy. Essentially, the consultant gives feedback and makes recommendations throughout the process; and works with the family to devise and implement their case plan, and achieve their outcome goals.

The expert family consultation process is unique to each family. It might involve one or more family members having sessions with the consultant; and/or the consultant making external referrals if appropriate/needed. The benefit is that, as the consultant guides the parents through their case plan in a step-by-step process. The consultant also regularly monitors the effectiveness of the case plan and progress towards reaching the outcome goals. This allows for interventions and recommendations to be modified as needed in real time, without significant delays.

Some of the techniques that might be used in the expert family consultation process are:

  • Psychoeducation;
  • Teaching communication and conflict management skills;
  • Devising procedures for parents to use for future foreseeable issues (e.g., how to go about choosing a psychologist or health professional for their child);
  • Teaching parents how to model helpful non-verbal and micro communication in front of children;
  • Dispute resolution techniques;
  • Therapeutic techniques to repair ruptured co-parenting, or parent-child relationships; and,
  • Liaising with other professionals who are involved with the family when appropriate.

How does the process usually work?

  1. Screening:
    • First, the family is screened using an intake session, to determine if expert family consultation will be a suitable service.
    • If expert family consultation is not deemed appropriate, the family will be given information (and referrals when needed) about more suitable options. This occurs in a feedback session.
  2. Structuring:
    • If expert family consultation is deemed appropriate, the parents (and children depending on their ages) enter into an agreement that outlines the basic structure and ground rules needed for the family to participate.
  3. Assessing and case planning:
    • The consultant then makes an assessment of the separated family system, the issues in dispute, the best interests of the children, and desired outcome goals.
    • The consultant then develops a draft case plan.
    • The case plan and outcome goals are discussed, modified if necessary, and agreed upon by family members (usually the parents).
  4. Implementing and monitoring:
    • The consultant then guides family members in implementing the case plan, while monitoring the case plan’s effectiveness/progress and modifying the case plan if necessary.
  5. After this phase, there are options to:
    • Return to the tasks of assessing and case planning for any modifications or residual issues.
    • Move towards case closure.
    • Elect to have follow-up engagement/review after a specified time period.

Can expert family consultation be used in matters with family violence?

Allegations, or a history of family violence does not mean a family is unable to access case consultation. The specific issues around family violence and appropriateness of expert family consultation are considered at the screening stage. If the family proceeds with expert family consultation, ways to manage family violence concerns are discussed at the structuring phase. Ongoing risk assessment is conducted throughout the entire period of service engagement.

For example, when family violence is a concern, the parents are able to have individual sessions only or joint zoom sessions. Risk management plans for the protection of family members will also be put in place.

What about Court and can the process include a report for Court?

Families are still able to access expert family consultation when there are current Court proceedings. Overall, the hope is that expert family consultation will help the separated family to resolve disputes, reach agreements, and improve family relationships and co-parenting in a timely way that avoids the need for ongoing and protracted Court proceedings. However, a parent’s right to access the family law system is not limited by their engagement in expert family consultation. It is possible for the consultant to provide a summary report at any stage in the process. Issues such as the provision of reports and opinions to Court, record keeping, and confidentiality are discussed with the family at the structuring phase.

The only limitation that expert family consultation poses for Court proceedings is that the consultant cannot act as a single expert witness (Family Report writer).


The cost for each intake and feedback session is $260.00. Intake sessions last between an hour and 90-minutes. Feedback sessions last an hour.

The assessing and case planning phase is charged at a flat rate of $2,000.00. This phase of the service requires between 12 to 16 hours of work by the consultant.

The ongoing costs for implementing and monitoring the case plan are on a case-by-case basis, depending on the complexity of the matter. Estimated costs are discussed at the structuring phase, and a costs and payment agreement is reached prior to implementing the case plan.