How Do I Get a Views of the Child Report?
Views of the child reports
Under s. 37(1) of the Family Law Act, when the court or the parties are making orders or agreements about guardianship, parenting arrangements or contact with a child, the parties and the court must consider the best interests of the child only. Under s. 37(2), this means that all of the child's needs and circumstances must be considered, including the child's views.
The child's views can be presented to the court in a number of ways, including through the parties' evidence, letters the child might write to the court, interviews with the judge or a lawyer appointed to represent the child. There are plenty of advantages and disadvantages to each. Views of the child reports are a good alternative. Views of the child reports give children an opportunity to express their views to a neutral person who will listen to them and prepare a written report for their parents and the court.
These reports are prepared by trained, neutral professionals, usually a mental health professional, lawyer, mediator or someone else with special training. The professional will interview the child, sometimes more than once, and then write a report summarizing what the child has said, using the child's own words as much as possible. These reports are different than other reports because all they talk about is what the child has said, and they don't provide the professional's assessment of the child's best interests, or even an opinion about what the child has said. They simply repeat the child's statements to the professional.
Cost and time
Family justice counsellors can prepare views of the child reports for free, but because there is such a demand for these reports and so few family justice counsellors trained to prepare them, there can be a delay of up to six months before the report is available.
The reports of lawyers and mental health professionals can be prepared as quickly as the reporter's calendar allows, sometimes the same day but more typically within a week. The cost of these reports can range from $500 to $3,000, depending on the number of children involved and the reporter's hourly rate. The website of the BC Hear the Child Society lists the society's roster of trained lawyers and mental health professionals and where they practice.
Views of the child reports are non-evaluative because they don't offer an assessment or opinion. As a result, they may not be appropriate in cases where an assessment is needed. This might be the case when the parents are concerned about the child's mental health or are worried that the child might be alienated or estranged from a parent.
In cases like this, s. 211(1)(b) of the Family Law Act allows the court to go a step further and appoint someone to assess the views of a child in relation to a family law dispute, and to make orders about how the report will be paid for. When a mental health professional is asked to assess the child's views, the professional will do a lot more than simply speak to the child. The assessor may also give the child a test to complete and speak to the child's parents and the other important people in the child's life.
An evaluative report like this will present the child's views to the court, along with the professional's evaluation of the child's maturity and ability to express herself, the strength and consistency of the child's views and the extent to which the child's statements really reflect the child's actual preferences.
Evaluative views of the child reports like this are cheaper to get than needs of the child assessments (see the page How Do I Get a Needs of the Child Assessment? for more information on that process), but can still cost somewhere between $2,500 and $5,000. They can usually be completed in two to three months.
Arranging for the views of the child report
The parties can agree that a views of the child report will be prepared. They then need to agree on whether the report will be evaluative or non-evaluative, and pick someone to prepare it.
If they can't agree, either party can apply to court for an order that a report be prepared. If you have to apply to court for such an order, make sure that you do your homework before going to court so that you can tell the judge what kind of report you want, who you think should prepare it, how much the cost will be and when it can be completed. The order will usually specify who is being retained to prepare the report and can also say how the report will be paid for.
Once the report is ordered or agreed upon, one of the parties should get in touch with the professional who will be preparing the report. The professional will tell you what happens next, when the interviewing process will begin, and when the completed report will likely be ready. The professional can also give you some tips on how to explain the interview to your children.
You can find more information about views of the child reports in the chapter Children in Family Law Matters.
|The above was last reviewed for legal accuracy by Inga Phillips, July 12, 2017.|
|JP Boyd on Family Law © John-Paul Boyd and Courthouse Libraries BC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada Licence.|