What is a Voice of the Child Report, and how can you get one?
In previous posts, we have discussed how a child’s voice is heard in custody/access proceedings, and the Office of the Children’s Lawyer specifically. In this post, University of Ottawa law school student and Fresh Legal intern, Jordan Levy, answers some frequently asked questions about Voice of the Child Reports.
What is a Voice of the Child Report?
A Voice of the Child (VOC) Report is a document that reports the wishes and views of the child on the issues of the legal proceeding. For instance, the report can contain the child’s preference to remain in the custody of their father or mother. The report does not include recommendations about what is in a child’s best interests; it only reports what the child wants.
How is a VOC report used?
Custody decisions are made in accordance with the best interests of the child. One factor in the best interests is their views and preferences. The VOC report can be used by the Judge to understand the child’s views and preferences in coming to a decision.
The judge will not always follow the wishes of the child from the VOC report or any other source (e.g. an OCL investigator, Custody and Assess Assessment or Judicial Interview). The child’s wishes are merely one aspect to determine what is in the best interests of the child.
Who pays for a VOC Report?
In Ontario, a VOC report can be publicly-funded if it is completed by the Office of Children’s Lawyer (OCL). Alternatively, it can be privately-funded and paid for by the parties; in such a case, the parties would hire someone to complete the investigation and report.
How do I get a VOC report?
To receive a publicly-funded report, there must be a court Order, including a Voice of the Child Endorsement Form.
Next, all parties must complete an intake form, which will confirm their consent to allow the child(ren) to participate in the completion of a VOC report. Both parties/ parents must give their consent for a VOC report to be completed.
The OCL will review the intake forms and decide if they would like to fund the VOC report. They can refuse to take the case.
The parties can also hire a lawyer or a social worker to complete a VOC report. The costs of a report can vary; you should expect to pay at least $1,000.00.
What is the VOC process?
Whether publicly or privately-funded, the child will be interviewed by the chosen professional. There will typically be at least two visits by the child to the professional, and each visit will be facilitated by one of the parties /parents.
The child will be asked questions related to their current and preferred living conditions. The child will also be given a chance to review their answers to the VOC report with the professional before it is submitted to the court.
What factors will a court consider?
If you ask the court to order a VOC report, they will consider many factors, including whether parental pressure or manipulation will impact the report; whether it is in the child’s best interests to participate in a VOC report; and whether the child consents to the process.