A Child’s Views and Preferences
Voice of the Child Reports (VCR)
Separating parents may have initiated a court process, family arbitration, or find themselves at a crossroads during negotiation of a separation agreement. What decisions they may jointly make or have granted the authority to a third party decision-maker to make on their behalf during those proceedings may be socially, emotionally, and psychologically impactful on their children’s future lives.
Parents may dispute appropriate shared parenting time, contact time with extended family, or how decision-making responsibilities regarding each child will be handled once the family moves into different homes.
Consider how the decisions related to relocation or change of residence uproot a child’s community, disturbs their schedules and activities, and can cause the emotional loss of close neighbours and friends. And the biggest impact on their children may be centered around a change in each child’s school.
Might a child’s views and preferences assist the parents in their dispute resolution proceedings?
Offering to hear what each child over seven years of age wishes to share with their parents about their parents’ disputes and potential decisions, a trained neutral Voice of the Child Reports professional will interview each child and write a short report outlining the child’s views and preferences.
The process is voluntary and requires the consent of each parent and child to participate.
The Child’s Words
A VCR states each child’s views and preferences in the child’s own words; words which the child has agreed to share. There are no other agencies or evaluators present. There are no community or school resources called upon. No reports from agencies or therapists are required.
The child’s views and preferences are the essences of the Short Report.
The child alone decides what information given in private to the professional will be shared with their parents. It is not the role of the VCR professional to analyze, interpret, or otherwise change the meaning or intention of the words chosen by the child during the interviews.
Parents’ Decision-Making Responsibilities
Whether the parents are negotiating a separation agreement, before the court, or in private arbitration, they retain their decision-making responsibilities for their children. The child’s participation in the VCR process does not diminish their parents’ responsibilities for each child’s wellbeing.
Both parents will agree to the selection of one VCR professional to interview each child. To maintain a balanced process, each parent separately brings the child to the professional’s office the same number of times. They will both be advised not to ask the child what they said to the VCR professional nor to present their perspective or preference as the child’s viewpoint.
Safety and security
The parent will introduce the professional to the child and assure the child that they will be waiting nearby. The interview is held in a child-safe and confidential space. A few of the child’s favorite toys, coloring books, or small activities can offer a child familiarity during the child-appropriate interview.
The short Voice of the Child Report is provided to the parents for their use unless instructed differently by a court or arbitrator.
Lorisa Stein MA JD FEA, Negotiation Family Law lawyer, continues to accept new clients and welcomes your questions about the Voice of the Child Reports. Negotiation offers more creative avenues to consider and develop your separation agreement with the support, foresight, and extensive experience of a senior family law lawyer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through her website
www.LorisaStein.com. Her direct line is 416 596-8081.