When parents separate or divorce, parenting arrangements need to be made which will have a significant impact on the children involved. Finding ways to include children’s thoughts and preferences can sometimes be part of the process in determining the parenting issues in a family law matter.
The Voice of the Child Report (“VOC Report”) is a relatively recent development in the effort to recognize and incorporate children’s views and preferences in matters that affect them.
What is a Voice of the Child Report?
The VOC Report is a written report by a professional who interviews a child involved in a family law matter that has contentious parenting issues.
The purpose of the VOC Report is to provide information about the child’s views and preferences. This information is then used to help the court and/or the parties make a determination regarding the decision-making authority (custody) and parenting time (access) issues in the case.
The VOC Report process usually involves two interviews between the child and a clinician. The information gathered during the interviews is then incorporated into a formal report.
It is important to note that a VOC Report is not a full assessment. It does not contain the clinician’s opinion and is intended to simply inform the judge and the parties involved about the views expressed by the child. The clinician will also not make a recommendation with respect to decision-making authority (custody) and parenting time (access).
Who Prepares the Voice of the Child Report?
A privately-retained social worker, counselor, psychiatrist, or lawyer can complete a Voice of the Child Report. If requested by the court, the Office of the Children’s Lawyer may also provide a VOC Report.
A VOC Report may be ordered by the court or prepared on the consent of all parties without obtaining a court order.
When is a Voice of the Child Report Appropriate?
A Voice of the Child Report is generally most appropriate when the issues between the parties are relatively focused, the children are not very young (usually over the age of 7), and there are no serious concerns involved (i.e., child abuse, alcohol or drug abuse, or mental health concerns). In circumstances that contain more serious issues, an in-depth assessment may be more appropriate, such as a decision-making or parenting time assessment under section 30 of Ontario’s Children’s Law Reform Act.
The process involved in preparing the VOC Report is also generally less expensive than more in-depth processes (such as section 30 assessments). As such, in matters where the parties have limited financial resources, parties may wish to have a VOC Report completed should it be deemed appropriate in the circumstances.
When is a Voice of the Child Report Not Appropriate?
A Voice of the Child Report may not be appropriate in matters that include allegations of domestic violence, power imbalances, parental alienation, or where a child does not wish to have contact with one parent.
A VOC Report may also not be appropriate in matters involving young children who are not at an age where they can effectively communicate their views and preferences.
You should speak with a family law lawyer in order to properly determine whether or not your matter requires or would benefit from a VOC Report.
Contact GDH Family Law for Advice on Parenting Matters
GDH Family Law provides reliable family law advice on a variety of parenting issues, including Voice of the Child Reports. Our experienced family and divorce lawyers provide creative legal solutions that address your family’s particular needs. Whether you need help with your entire separation or divorce process or only require support on one particular legal issue, we can help.
GDH Family Law is based in Vaughan and represents clients throughout Maple, Concord, Woodbridge, Markham, Kleinburg, Richmond Hill, Nobleton, Toronto, Newmarket, Aurora, Brampton, Caledon, Mississauga, Etobicoke, North York, Thornhill, and King City. For a free initial consultation on your family matter, contact us at 416-535-6944 or reach out online.