Hear the Child Reports
Common sense indicates, and social science and research done in recent years confirms, that children are heavily impacted, often in a negative way, when their parents separate, and that such impacts are much more severe, and much more negative, when the separation of their parents is hostile and acrimonious.
For all of these reasons, and also of course because one of the key considerations, if not THE key consideration, in dealing with parental separation is what is in the best interests of the children, action has been taken in recent years to look at how children in such cases are affected and try to ameliorate such effects. This has led to a recognition that children, due to the fact that they are involved in and affected by the separation of their parents, have the right to be heard and to have their views considered when decisions are made about their situations.
The United Nations on the Rights of the Child states that children have a right to be heard and to have their views considered in situations in which decisions are being made which affect their interests. Some recent Canadian case law and the new BC Family Law Act strongly support this position.
For all of these reasons it is most desirable, in cases in which the best interests of children are being considered, to give such children an opportunity to be heard regarding the situation.
There are two ways in which children can be heard in cases in which their best interests are being considered. Trained psychologists may speak with children and may at the same time observe them with their parents and evaluate them, while other trained professionals such as experienced family lawyers may speak with the children about the situation in a non-evaluative manner and report what they have said, usually verbatim, to the parents and to the court.
In situations in which psychological issues, such as allegations of parental alienation, may be involved, it is usually best to have a psychologist speak with the children so an evaluation, and a finding concerning the alleged psychological issue may be made. This is because a non-evaluative Hear the Child Report preparer is not trained to assess children psychologically.
However in cases which do not involve allegations of psychological issues, having a non-evaluative Hear the Child Reporter speak with the children about their situation and report what they are saying about it to the parents and, where appropriate, to the court, may well be extremely useful as the Hear the Child process will often reveal to the parents and the court what the children are feeling about their situation. In addition a Hear the Child Report, or as it is sometimes called a Views of the Child report, allows the children to “have a say” about what is happening and will happen to them in their custody case. Thus the Hear the Child Report process, while of course providing valuable information to the parents and the court, also empowers the children, allowing them to feel that they have been heard and that their views will be considered when decisions are being made about their futures.
William R. (Bill) Storey is a trained, experienced and committed Hear the Child reporter with many years of family law experience who speaks with children who are involved in custody cases and produces non-evaluative Hear the Child Reports.