Voice of the Child Reports
The child’s voice is about children sharing their views and preferences. In some cases, it is about children talking about their worries, concerns, perceptions and experiences about their family situation. It is not about children making the decision about parenting arrangements.
A Voice of the Child Report is one way to give children a chance to be heard in family law proceedings.
It is a written report prepared by a professional who interviews the child. It is usually ordered by a judge. The Report gives information about the child’s views and preferences around parenting issues. It will usually also give information about:
- how the interview(s) with the child were completed
- what information was used in preparing the report
- anything else that is important to the process
The “best interests of the child” is what guides judges when they make decisions in family law. To figure out what is in the child’s best interests, judges may need to learn about and understand the points of view of the child and information the child may have. The Report may help the parties, lawyers and judges learn about and understand the child’s perspective. Information in the Report may be used to help those involved to make decisions about parenting arrangements. It may help those involved to decide on what to include in court orders.
It may help children. In many cases, children have better relationships within their families when they believe their voices have been heard. Voice of the Child Reports give children a way to share their views, preferences and experiences about parenting issues when they might not have been able to otherwise.
It may help adults involved in the case. Adults who hear the views and preferences of the children may understand the children better. The adults may be able to look at the parenting situation from the child’s point of view after hearing from children. This might lower conflict and help adults come to more agreements about parenting issues. Less conflict and more agreement is also good for children.
It may help the judge. The Report may give judges information that they otherwise may not have. The information may help judges make decisions about what parenting arrangements are in the best interests of the child.
Most Voice of the Child Reports are ordered by a judge in a family law case. Parties may file an application with a court requesting a Voice of the Child Report be completed, or a judge may order one without an application.
Certain information should be included in any request to show why you think the report is needed and why a judge should order it. A lawyer can help parties decide whether to make an application and what to include in any application. For ways to get legal advice, click here.
Judges decide whether a Voice of the Child Report should be prepared. There are a number of ways to hear from children - Voice of the Child Reports are just one of these ways. These Reports are usually ordered when parties cannot agree to parenting arrangements. Voice of the Child Reports may be ordered when the judge hearing the matter:
- decides that the Report should be prepared
- decides they need to hear from a child to make a decision about the child’s best interests and
- decides that the Voice of the Child Report is the best way to hear from the child.
Parties should get legal advice on this issue. For ways to get legal advice, click here.
Some things that may help a judge decide will be:
- timing - is there time to prepare it?
- types of decisions - will the Report help with the parenting decisions that need to be made?
- reliable Information - what way might be the best way to get reliable information?
- age and stage of the child’s development - is this the right way to hear this child’s voice?
- other options - is there another way to learn about the child’s views and preferences that is in the child’s best interests?
- emotions and stress - what process would be the least emotionally stressful for the child?
- cost - is the process an affordable one?
- efficiency - is there any other way to receive the needed information?
- level of conflict - will this Report help lower conflict and encourage settlement?
Speak to a lawyer to learn more about the ways that children’s views and preferences may be heard.
There is no set rule because all children are different and each case is different.
There are different ways to hear from children. The Voice of the Child Report is just one of the ways to hear from children. It is important that the option used to hear about children’s views and preferences is one that is best for the child and takes into account their age and stage of development.
A lawyer can help parties sort out how children’s views and preferences can be heard. For ways to get legal advice, click here.