In Part 1 of this series, Sarah Dargatz wrote about the use of children's lawyers in high conflict family law disputes in Alberta. Sarah said that hiring a lawyer to represent a child can be an effective way to get information about the child's views and preferences when the parents cannot agree. In Part 2, Sarah described two special processes that are sometimes used in high conflict cases in Alberta: interventions under Practice Note 7 that are designed to get information about a child or a parent to the court, or to help the parents work together more effectively; and, assessments under Practice Note 8 about the parenting arrangements that are best for a child. Sarah pointed out that, although these processes are often very useful, neither interventions nor assessments are free and both can take many months to complete. In this part of the series, I will talk about how views of the child reports and parenting assessments are used in other parts of Canada.
Views of the Child Reports
Views of the child reports, also called "Hear the Child" reports and "Voice of the Child" reports, are also used in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia, as well as in parts of the United Kingdom and the United States. These reports are used to get the child's perspective on parenting disputes affecting their interests, as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child requires, and are either evaluative or non-evaluative; the views of the child reports Sarah described in Part 2 are evaluative reports.
Views of the child reports are written reports describing the child's views and preferences for the benefit of the child's parents and the court, and are prepared following one or more interviews with the child. Evaluative reports are prepared by mental health professionals, such as counsellors, social workers and psychologists, and include the interviewers' opinions about the strength and consistency of the child's views, or about the likelihood that the child's expressed views reflect the child's actual views. Non-evaluative reports are prepared by lawyers and mental health professionals, and others with special training speaking to children, and report the child's views without offering an opinion about what the child has said.
Views of the child reports are most useful for older children who are able to express themselves and discuss their feelings and wishes. While they're not a substitute for parenting assessments...