Voice of the Child Information for Parents and Lawyers
NOEL MEDIATION SERVICES
Stéphane Noël, BHuServ.
Acc.FM (OAFM), Q.Med. (ADRIC, ADRIO) Voice of the Child & Child Inclusive Mediation Practitioner
Perth, Ontario. Tel : 613-293-2247 Secure Fax : 844-946-0840
What is the Voice of the Child Report (VCR)?
A Voice of the Child Report (VCR) is a non-evaluative report prepared for parents
(and/or the Court) after meeting with the children of parents who have separated. The
purpose of it is to assist in the resolution of parenting plans. Any party (parent/
guardian) can request the preparation of a VCR at any point in the process of dispute
resolution or litigation.
A VCR can also be court ordered. However, it is at the discretion of the practitioner
and child whether they are completed. VCR’s help parents learn the child’s views,
perspectives and preferences for consideration in negotiation, mediation, litigation and
other dispute resolution processes between parents/guardians. A VCR can be very
useful in the early stages of separation to allow the parents to gain a better
understanding of the child’s views and assist with settlement. Even if the parenting plan
changes over time, parenting plans in place soon after the separation typically
help to reduce conflict and improve the situation for the child.
Most parents appreciate hearing their children’s views and agree that it is in the
children’s best interests to be heard. Parents often appreciate that the Report is about
what their child had to say instead of just focusing on the differences between each
parent. Children want to be heard and supported but do not want to make the final
decisions. The parents make the final decisions with regard to a parenting plan.
VCR’s can be most useful when there are no complex ‘clinical’ issues (e.g. mental health,
addictions, child abuse, etc.). If complex concerns exist, it may be more appropriate to
have an in-depth parenting plan assessment where the child’s voice is also heard.
A VCR is not used to determine decision making responsibility and parenting time. It is
not an assessment or an evaluation about the strengths and limitations of each parent’s
parenting abilities. VCR's can be most useful when there are no complex ‘clinical’
issues (e.g. mental health, addictions, child abuse, etc.). If complex concerns exist, it
may be more appropriate to have an in-depth parenting plan assessment where the
child’s voice is also heard.
In confidential interviews, the practitioner allows the child to determine what
information is shared with the parents and what is not to be shared. Such assurances of
confidentiality can encourage children to be more comfortable and open to sharing.
Most children want to have their voice heard and considered. However, the child may
not want to share anything and we must respect their choice.
A VCR is NOT completed when there are criminal charges against a parent and where
the child might have to testify in criminal court or for any other legal reason that may
interfere with the process. It is also important to not interview children multiple times.
Therefore, If a VCR, a parenting plan assessment under the C.L.R.A. s. 30 or a clinical
investigation under the C.J.A. s. 112 (Office of the Children’s Lawyer) has been
completed in the past year, we would not complete the VCR again unless something
significant has changed. We do not complete a VCR if it is likely that there will be
repercussions to the child for participating.
The discretion for completing the VCR remains with the practitioner and child. A VCR
will only be completed if both parties (parents/guardians) consent and there is consent
for participation from the child. As with any meeting with a child, disclosures about a
safety issue or potential safety issue must be reported to child protection authorities.
Each parent is required to complete an Intake Form, describing their perspective on the
issues in dispute and information about the children. If this has been court ordered, a
copy of the court order must be submitted to the practitioner.
VCR’s are limited in scope and do not constitute an assessment or investigation of
any kind. Collateral information is not sought, nor are recommendations made by
How Does It Occur?
The practitioner will determine with each parent, where and when the meetings shall
take place. There should be at least two meetings with each child. Children are seen
individually and not with siblings in the room. Typically the meetings are one hour or
less each time. Interviews are completed online, and the parent must remain in an area
where they are not listening in on the interview. The child must be afforded privacy.
What to tell the child about it?
• You don’t need to say much.
• What you should say must be simple and not about the other parent or what you want.
• You show that you are supportive of the child sharing his/her own thoughts and
feelings and not those of either parent.
• You should not blame the other parent or say bad things about the other parent.
• Don’t ask the child to keep secrets.
• Don’t talk about the court case or anything related.
• Do not influence your child or force the child to give information.
• Don’t promise your child something for participating or sharing certain information.
• And, of course, do not influence or threaten the child.
You might say:
“Your ____ and I (or Judge) thought it may be helpful for you to meet with a special
person who meets with children when parents separate and divorce. This person would
like to know what your thoughts and feelings are so that person can help us to come up
with a plan that works for everyone.”
“You won’t be asked to choose between us.”
“It gives you an opportunity to share with someone other than us, where you can say
what you want to say.”
“The special person will only tell us (or the Judge) what you want us to know.”
After the meetings are completed:
Don’t ask the child what was asked of them or what he/she said.
The practitioner will write a Voice of the Child Report or share the information
verbally. The practitioner will only share what the child agrees to share.
Therefore, what is shared with the parents is at the discretion of the child, and the
practitioner. If there are any concerns that what is shared may be detrimental to the
child, the practitioner may terminate the process and/or not share information.
Do No Harm
Children need to know their parents respect the process and will not express anger,
resentment or retribution for their contribution. The children decide what, if anything,
is shared with their parents. In confidential meetings, the VCR practitioner allows the
child to determine what information is shared with the parents and what is not to be
shared. Such assurances of confidentiality can encourage children to be more
comfortable and open to sharing. Most children want to have their voice heard and
Children's Right to be Heard
Children have the right to be heard when decisions are being made that impact them.
This right to be heard is reflected in Article 12 in The United Nations Convention on
the Rights of Children (UNCRC) of which Canada is a signatory. It is also reflected in
the Divorce Act, the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, and the Children's Law
Reform Act. Judges in Ontario are increasingly directing parents to obtain a Voice of the Child Report, in recognition of this right.
Voice of the Child 'Open Process' Report
Most Voice of the Child Report processes are "open", meaning that the report provided to parents can be used for any purpose, including mediation and also be available for court purposes. Most Voice of the Child process are "Open".
Voice of the Child 'Closed Process' Report
A Voice of the Child "closed" process report used exclusively for the purpose and in context of Child-Inclusive Mediation can be beneficial. Obtaining the voice of the children can be very useful as it allows parents to gain a better understanding of their children’s experience and usually assists with settlement of issues at mediation, without compromising their position should mediation fail and the matter be forced into court.
Remember that this is a non-evaluative process. It is not an assessment of any kind,
nor are recommendations made. A Voice of the Child Report facilitates a Child-
Inclusive Mediation, and the practitioner can only share what the child is comfortable
sharing. Lastly, within the context of closed mediation, none of the information can be
used for court purposes.
Should you require more information, please feel free to contact me.
Stéphane Noël, BHuServ.
Acc.FM (OAFM), Q.Med. (ADRIC, ADRIO)
Voice of the Child Practitioner
Child Inclusive Mediator
Noël Mediation Services
Services de Médiation Noël