Preparing for a Voice of the Child Report
To help you prepare: focus on ways to keep your child out of any dispute. You do not need to do anything special to prepare for a Voice of the Child Report process unless the court tells you.
To help the child prepare: be supportive of your child expressing their true thoughts and feelings. Review Parent Information Program materials about how to keep the children out of the middle of disputes.
Be sure to always follow the directions given by the judge, the court officer and the assessor.
How much you will need to say to a child about the process, and how you will say it, will depend on the child and their age and stage of development. It is usually best to tell children information in simple and direct terms. You might say that:
- the judge has been asked to decide on parenting arrangements and how the child will spend time with the adults involved in the case
- the judge has asked a special person to talk to the child. This person is called an assessor, and knows a lot about children.
- the assessor will be helping the judge by getting to know the child and finding out what the child is thinking and feeling about the situation
- the assessor will write a report to explain what the child is thinking and feeling so the adults involved and the judge will know and understand what is going on from the child’s view
- the child will not be asked to choose between their parents or other adults involved in the case
- the process is a great chance for the child to say what is on their mind and give information from their point of view
No. Assessors interviewing children are professionals. The assessor will talk to children in ways that keep the best interests of the child in mind. Children will not be asked who they want to live with, as this question can put the child in the middle of the dispute and make the child feel pressured and torn.
Not usually. In most cases, this process takes the place of children going to court or meeting with a judge.
Follow child-focused rules for what to say to children at all times.
- don’t blame the other parent or other people involved
- don’t say bad things about the other parent or other people involved
- don’t tell the children what to say to the assessor
- don’t ask the child about what was asked or said in the process
- don’t ask the child to keep secrets
- don’t talk to the child about the details of the court case
It is important that adults not question or attempt to influence the child, or force the child to give information. These kinds of questions and pressures put a lot of stress on the child. They can also have a negative effect on your relationship with the child.
If you are a party to the court case, contact the court officer who set up the process. The court officer will try and answer your question.
In most cases, the assessor will decide where the interview will be held. The child will usually be seen somewhere other than a party’s home, such as at the assessor’s office, a local restaurant, or a library. The assessor may meet with the child more than once and in different places, depending on the situation. The assessor will do their best to make the child feel comfortable.
Interview times may vary, but it will usually take 45 minutes to 1 hour, each time.
Parents or parties are not present during interviews. The assessor will let you know what to do when the appointments are made. Remember that the assessor has to follow all court orders that are in place. For example, an assessor cannot allow a party to have contact with a child if an order from a criminal court or family court case says that person is not allowed to have contact.
The assessor will decide whether the children will be interviewed together or apart. The assessor will let you know what to do.