Voice of the Child Report
In the event that parents cannot agree on issues related to custody, guardianship, residence for the children, access, allegations of abuse and other parenting issues, they can request that the Court order a Voice of the Child Report whereby a Lori Ellis-McKinney RSW BSW, declared an expert witness by the court, interviews the child and reports back the child’s views on specific issues. A Voice of the Child Report can also be agreed to by consent between the parties without a court order.
These issues include the child’s preferred residence, preferred school, their views on access and visits and any other issues in which the parents would like the child’s opinion to be heard. A Voice of the Child Report does not provide recommendations as it is only intended to clarify the child’s opinions and feelings about an issue affecting them.
In most cases, the Voice of the Child Report process will not involve the assessor’s reviewing the court file or other materials. Assessors will benefit from having a brief description of the competing parenting proposals. The judge may direct that filed Parenting Statements be provided to the assessor. In situations where more current or detailed parenting proposal information is required, the judge may direct parties to file and exchange a Parenting Proposal Form and that the form be provided to the assessor. However, the judge may direct otherwise.
Adult litigants may be contacted, and in certain cases interviewed, unless otherwise ordered by the court. Contact with adult litigants may assist the assessor to make introductions, set an interview time with the child, explain the process, set expectations, and gather information. Contact or interview with adult litigants is not intended to be an assessment of their parenting plans or parenting abilities. A Voice of the Child Report will not usually contain information about the adult litigants’ perceptions of the child’s views and preferences, unless determined by the assessor to be necessary (for example, to describe evidence of coaching or influence).
Valuable information about the child’s feelings and perceptions about their family is obtained. A detailed report is written and the parents typically use the report to help reach a settlement. In the case of a court ordered report, it is submitted directly to the Judge to assist the Judge in decision making.