Interviewing and Reports for Court
There are 3 formats used to interview children involved in family law disputes and to report their views to the court. It is important to choose the format that best suits your family situation. Your lawyer can help you make the decision about which type of report is most appropriate, or you and your co-parent can decide together.
Hear the Child Report
Fee: $750 per child, $500 for additional children
Time frame: 1-3 weeks
Hear the Child Reports are the most straight-forward, cost-effective and efficient of the three options. They are non-evaluative, largely verbatim reports of how the child responded to the interviewer’s questions about their current living situation and any proposed changes to that situation. The report writer offers no opinions and makes no analysis of the child’s comments.
The process: Jenn meets both parents briefly to get a sense of the issues. She then interviews the child in her office for approximately 1 hour. The child will be reassured that the adults will be making decisions and that their views will influence the decision makers. Often, Jenn will have a brief follow-up appointment with the child. Only information which the child consents to relay remains in the final draft of the report.
HTC reports are most appropriate for children 8 years and older, when the court seeks the child’s input, but does not require any sort of expert opinion or evaluation of the child or parent.
View of the Child Report
Fee: $1,500 per child
Time frame: 4-7 weeks
View of the Child reports are slightly more involved and evaluative then a HTC report. The child is interviewed twice, and parents typically bring the child to one appointment each. In a View of the Child interview and report, the interviewer is asking questions and listening to the child’s thoughts and feelings about their living situation. Additionally, the interviewer is looking for indicators of parental alienation and/or parental attempts to “coach” the child into parroting one parent’s point of view. The View of the Child reports therefore do contain some of the report writer’s opinion on the parent-child relationship.
View of the Child reports are appropriate when there is concern that a child’s voice will be muffled by parental interference, when one parent is alienated from their child and/or when the courts do not require a full assessment of the child and their parents’ functioning.
Full Section 211 Report
Fee: $125/hour with a $4,500 retainer to start
Time frame: 6-12 weeks (40-80 hours of work)*
Full Section 211 Reports are the most comprehensive and evaluative of the 3 types of reports. They are geared to assess the functioning of the child and their parents/guardians, to assess the child’s two homes and to determine what sort of parenting arrangements will meet the best interests of the child.
The process: After Jenn has reviewed the legal documents related to the file, Jenn will meet with each parent and their child for one or two interviews. Next, she will spend time in each household observing family interactions. She will interview a pre-determined and equal number of collaterals identified by each parent. Examples of collaterals include the parent’s spouses/partners, teachers, doctors, counsellors, caregivers and other adults that the parents identify as significant to or well informed about the family. Jenn also reviews collateral documents and communications such as texts, emails and social media posts provided by each parent. Great care is taken to ensure that the evaluation process is impartial and that both parents are given the same time and process. Jenn does not seek out information or documentation, she bases her report only on the information provided by the parents/guardians and their lawyers. Finally, Jenn compiles and evaluates all the information gathered, then writes the report. The report summarizes the information gathering process. It also presents an analysis and recommendations for the parenting arrangements that Jenn determines will most fully address the best interests of the child.
Section 211 reports are most appropriate when the family law dispute contains allegations about inadequate parenting capacity, when parental alienation is a concern, when the level of conflict between the parents is moderate to high and when the children are too young or estranged from one parent to articulate their views or understand the implications of various parenting arrangements.
*The total cost of the report will depend on the complexity of the family’s situation and is therefore not possible to predict.
Interviewer Approach and Ethics
Jenn has received specialized training in the art of interviewing children and preparing reports for court. Children and youth feel at ease speaking candidly with Jenn about their thoughts and feelings. Parents feel confident that their family issues are being handled by a professional mediator/counsellor with over a decade of experience supporting families through conflict. Jenn structures her interviews to match the child’s developmental stage, personality type and ability to express thoughts and feelings.
Regardless of the interview format, Jenn is careful to convey the message that the child’s views need to be heard and considered regarding issues that impact them directly. She also reassures parents and children alike that the adults remain the decision makers.