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The child’s views are one factor under the law that must be considered when a decision is made about the child’s best interests.  Where a child is capable of freely expressing his or her views, and wishes to do so, the child has a right to share them with those who will make decisions affecting the child.  Hearing from the child can result in a better decision for both the child and the adults in their life, and obtaining the child’s views does not mean the child makes the decision.

The role of the parents or other adults involved is to create a supportive, neutral space where children can share their thoughts and views about their lived experience free from adult pressure and influence.

There are various ways to hear the views of a child in a family law case and three of the most popular in BC are: Hear the Child Reports; Views of the Child Reports; and Section 211 Assessment Reports under the Family Law Act.  The costs of these reports is often shared equally by the parties.  So, what’s the difference?

A Hear the Child Report is prepared by a neutral interviewer who is generally a lawyer or mental health professional.  The interviewer meets with the child to listen to the child’s views,  puts them into a written report and gives the Report to the parties and decision-maker(s) so they can be considered when making decisions in the child’s best interests.  Ideally the parents agree to the child being interviewed so the child is not “caught in the middle”.  Neither the child, nor the parents are assessed and the child’s views can be obtained relatively quickly, sometimes in a matter of days, and often for a lower cost than other options.

A Views of the Child Report is prepared by a family justice counsellor, social worker, psychologist or other mental health professional who meets with the child.  The mental health professional hears the child’s views and can also assess the child’s needs or views, but not the parents.  This tool can be useful where there are concerns about the child’s well-being.

A Section 211 Assessment Report is prepared by a family justice counsellor, social worker, psychologist or other mental health professional for the purposes of assessing the child’s needs, views and the the ability and willingness of the parties to a family law dispute to satisfy the needs of a child.  The professional meets with the child and parents and possibly others who know the parents and child such as teachers, counsellors, other family members or friends and  prepares a report that includes conclusions and recommendations about the parents and child.  This report generally takes a significantly longer time to prepare and costs several thousand dollars but is intended to assist the Court in making decisions about parenting and the child’s best interests.

Child Specialists may also assist parents to hear their children’s views where they want to cooperate in making decisions in the best interests of their child.

Hear the Child Reports can be obtained with assistance from BHM Lawyers Trudi BrownKay Melbye or Suzanne Williams who are qualified, non-evaluative child interviewers on the BC Hear the Child Society Roster.