What is a Voice of the Child Report? How are they used in court proceedings?

January 21, 2024 Plat Simionati

What is a Voice of the Child Report? How are they used in court proceedings?

Disclaimer: This article aims to provide educational information surrounding a voice of the child report. It is not intended to serve as legal advice. Consult with a lawyer and exercise your discretion before taking action based on the information provided in the blog. 

Divorce and separation can be a seismic shift in a family’s dynamics, and for children, it often ushers in a whirlwind of emotions and uncertainty. Though sometimes overlooked, their perspectives carry immense weight and can profoundly shape the decisions made during this phase.

How can you empower your children to share their feelings and opinions? In our previous article, we discussed an Office of the Children’s Lawyer report, an assessment wherein a clinician interviews parents and others to provide recommendations about what would be best for the child. However, there are other options. 

In this article, we will discuss a Voice of the Child Report, another tool that has been seen to be helpful in many cases. 

What is a Voice of the Child Report in Ontario Family Law?

In Ontario family law, a Voice of the Child Report (VOC) is a short report that captures a child’s perspectives, preferences, and views on specific issues relevant to decision-making responsibilities or parenting time. It is sometimes known as the views of the child report. These reports play a crucial role in court proceedings involving children, offering a direct channel for the child’s voice to be heard and considered in legal deliberations.

How Does It Differ From a Children’s Lawyer Report Prepared by a Clinician? 

While a Children’s Lawyer report can be prepared for any child under the age of 18, this report is reserved for children over the age of seven. 

As noted, a clinician will prepare a Children’s Lawyer report. They will collect and analyze information about the child and the family’s dynamics. The clinician will prepare a report outlining their recommendations to the court. 

The VOC does not contain any recommendations or the professional’s opinion because the report is about the child. It is a concise summary of the views and preferences of the child as told to the clinician from the child.

Who prepares a Voice of the Child Report? 

First, the Office of the Children’s Lawyer (OCL) produces a limited number of these reports. Alternatively, outside the OCL, various professionals, including lawyers, counselors, social workers, or psychiatrists, can prepare these reports.

However, you must consider selecting someone objective and neutral. For instance, someone who has a pre-existing relationship with the child, is affiliated with the parties, or has previously rendered opinions in the proceedings may not be an appropriate choice. Consider someone who has expertise in this area and who will be a credible, impartial choice. 

What is the process for obtaining a Voice of the Child Report?  

The process of obtaining a VOC involves several specific steps, ensuring a structured approach to gather and present a child’s perspectives in legal proceedings:

If you wish to have the Office of the Children’s Lawyer involved, you would initiate the process by obtaining a court order requesting the OCL’s involvement in providing a VOC. This court order outlines the specific issues to be addressed in the report. The OCL will require you to complete an intake form summarizing relevant information. Once it receives the intake form, the OCL will decide to accept or refuse the case. 

If another party, such as a lawyer or other professional, will prepare the report, you will contact them directly to schedule the interviews. 

Either way, the clinician will conduct at least two separate interviews with the child, usually about an hour each. These interviews serve as a platform for the child to express their views, preferences, and opinions regarding the pertinent issues. One parent will bring the child to each interview but will not be present during the interview. 

At the end of each interview, the clinician reviews the child’s statements to ensure accuracy in reflecting their views. After completing the interviews, the clinician compiles the VOCR based solely on the child’s input. The clinician will then file the report with the court and share it with the parties.  

Should I get a Voice of the Child report? 

This process may be helpful in a few specific situations: 

  • The child wants to express their wishes and preferences.
  • The child is over seven years old. 
  • The parents cannot agree on what is in the child’s best interests and need to resolve issues of parenting time and decision-making responsibility. 

While less commonly used than an Office of the Children’s Lawyer report, it is less intrusive and can help settle any issues in dispute.  You can also use your report outside of the courts. For example, it can be beneficial in mediation or collaborative law and provide information that may guide the parents’ decisions in preparing a parenting plan.   

Protecting the Best Interests of Your Children with Plat Simionati LLP

Children are impacted by separation and divorce, but allowing them to be heard can be very helpful. At Plat Simionati LLP, we prioritize helping your family move into its next chapter as smoothly as possible. Whether through mediation, collaborative law, or expertly managing court proceedings, our team is here to offer support. Our team exclusively practices family law, and we do it well.  Your family’s welfare matters to us, and we’re committed to providing you with the guidance you need. Reach out today to discuss your situation and find the best way for your family. Reach out to our team today to discuss your situation.