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 and 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)(b), the child's views are to be taken into account when assessing the child's best interests.
There are two main ways to get the views of a child before the court:
- through a views of the child report (an evaluative report) prepared by an expert, like a social worker, registered clinical counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist, or
- through a non-evaluative lay views of the child report (a non-evaluative report) prepared by someone who has training in interviewing children, like a family justice counsellor or a lawyer, and may also include a trained mental health professional.
Other ways of getting the child's views before the court include the child writing a letter to the judge, having an independent lawyer prepare an affidavit for the child, or asking the judge to interview the child in his or her office.
A note of caution about giving a letter from your child to the judge, though: judges are often very concerned about having children involved directly in the court proceedings. The judge might also think you pressured your child into writing the letter. It is far better to get an evaluative or a non-evaluative report if your child wants a voice in the court proceedings.
Section 211(1)(b) of the Family Law Act allows the court to 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 process is more than an interview because the assessor is being asked to give the court an opinion. The assessor may want to meet with the child for two or more interviews; the assessor may speak with the child's parents or other important people in the child's life; and, the assessor may administer one or more tests to the child.
The finished report will present the child's views to the court along with the assessor's evaluation of the strength and consistency of the child's views and the extent to which what the child has said really reflects the child's actual preferences.
Evaluative reports like this are cheaper to get than needs of the child assessments, but will still cost somewhere between $2,500 and $5,000. They can usually be completed in two to three months.
Non-evaluative views of the child reports, also called hear the child reports or voice of the child reports, can be ordered under ss. 37(2)(b) and 202 of the Family Law Act and are prepared by family justice counsellors, lawyers with special training, and mental health professionals.
These reports are different than evaluative reports because they don't evaluate anything; they merely report what the child has told the reporter with no analysis, opinion or commentary. They simply say "I spoke to Brandon and Brandon said..." without any editorializing.
The reports of family justice counsellors are 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 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 practise.
Arranging for the report
The parties can agree that a views of the child report will be prepared, but if they can't agree, an application can be made to court for an order that a report be prepared. The order will usually specify exactly who is being retained to prepare the report and can also specify how the report will be paid for.
Once the report is ordered or agreed upon, either party can get in touch with the person who will be preparing the report. The reporter will tell you what happens next, when the interviewing process will begin, and when the completed report will likely be ready. The reporter 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 Arlene Henry, QC and Thomas Wallwork, August 24, 2015.|
|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.|