VOICE OF THE CHILD ASSESSMENTS
Voice of the Child Assessments commonly assist in custody matters where parents disagree about what’s best for the child. VOCA’s (also known as child’s wishes or preferences assessments) are one way to give children a chance to be heard in family law proceedings. They assist the legal professionals in determining what is in the best interests of the child in their decision making process. In conflictual separations, it is often difficult to understand what is really best for the child when information is provided from the parents alone.
The Assessor is a neutral third-party, trained in child development, child mental health, complex family dynamics, risk assessments and neutral report writing. The Assessor interviews the child in a child-centered manner, based on their age and stage of development, and then prepares a written report for the legal professionals’ use. These reports can be ordered by a judge or requested by a lawyer.
Please note, these are not encouraging children to make the decision about parenting arrangements. The report does not include the Assessor’s opinion, but rather a compilation of information gathered that speaks to the child’s perceived experiences, needs, wishes, level of stress and/or adjustment.
$85/hourNote: a retainer of $1000 is required before beginning the assessment. This provides approximately 12 hours of service. If more time is required, another retainer will be required, usually $500. The final report cannot be released until the fees are paid in full. If the retainers provided were more than the actual cost, the remainder will be returned.
HOW DOES IT HELP?
"Researchers and practitioners who support children's inclusion say it helps the children, helps the parents focus on their children's best interests, gives parents a better sense of their children's wishes and feelings overall, produces better agreements for the children.
Specific benefits include:
children can disclose their genuine feelings, which they often cannot or will not disclose to their parents;
the children feel they have more input and some, if limited, control during a period when their lives feel out of control;
the children can deal better with their feelings by talking about their concerns and interests;
the children are often confused and may be helped by hearing what agreements their parents have reached;
children may cope better with changes if they know and understand the reasons for them."
Quoted from from justice.gc.ca