Children remain an integral unit of the family, long after parties separate. As such, the child/children’s views and wishes are a relevant and practical consideration when constructing a parenting plan for the parties’ separation. This is where Voice of he Child Reports come into play.
When parties are negotiating their parenting plan, they may consider it practical to consult their children in order to determine their wishes.
Paragraph 24(2)(b) of the Children’s Law Reform Act, provides that the courts shall consider all the child’s needs and circumstances, including:
(b) “the child’s views and preferences, if they can reasonable be ascertained”
However, this may prove difficult for children of young age who may be influenced or pressured by one parent involved. How do the courts liberate these difficulties?
What is a VOC Report?
A Voice of the Child Report (“VOC report”) is a fairly recent development that aims to consider the child’s voices regarding matters they are involved in. It is a document that outlines the child’s wishes or views with respect to the issues of the proceeding that affect them.
Who prepares the report?
In order to avoid pressure from both parents, parties may consent to retaining an independent professional to interview the child and provide a VOC report. A professional such as a lawyer, or psychologist, who interviews the child, usually writes it. Unlike a report by the Office of the Children’s Lawyer or a section 30 custody assessment, the professional’s opinion is not considered or provided as a form of assessment. Rather, it is a document simply to inform the judge about the wishes and views of the child on the issues of the proceeding.
The professional’s goal is to ensure that the report authentically reflects the child’s wishes and views.
How is the VOC report used?
The child’s wishes are one of several factors to determine what is the in child’s best interest. As mentioned, the judge may utilize the VOC report in an effort to consider the child’s views when reporting a decision.
VOC reports also assist in providing parents with a better understanding of the child’s views, which, in turn may assist in a fruitful negotiation.
When is it appropriate?
VOC reports are generally appropriate in situations where the child is mature, older, and when there are no apparent complex issues within the legal proceeding, such as abuse, neglect, parental alienation or mental health concerns.
What is the role of the child?
The child will generally be interviewed through at least two visits from the professional.
The child will be asked questions related to their current and desired living conditions.
The child will be given an opportunity to review their answers with the professional prior to being submitted to the courts. Furthermore, the child typically has a say in what is and is not included in the final report.
What is the Cost?
VOC reports are cost-effective and appear to be quicker than a full assessment report. This is because they involve an interview with the child as opposed to a full clinical assessment.
A VOC report can be publicly funded if completed by the Office of Children’s Lawyer, which ought to be obtained by way of a court Order.
In the alternative, parties may want to hire a professional to complete the investigation and report independently. The cost of the report may vary, and typically ranges from $1,000.00 to $2,000.00.
Nussbaum Law is a team of legal professionals who can assist with your family law matter. Speak to one of the firm members and obtain your independent legal advice today!