Voice of the Child Reports (“VOCRs”) are increasingly being used by the court in the context of family law proceedings. The summary below addresses the purpose of a VOCR, the court’s authority to order a VOCR, the appropriate uses of a VOCR, and how VOCRs have been used by Ontario courts in recent years.
A VOCR is an evidentiary and a cost-effective tool to present the court with a child’s views, perspectives and preferences. A VOCR “allow[s] a child to speak frankly to a qualified third party without the child being pressured to say things that the parents want to hear”. (S.(K.L.) v. M.(J.G.), 2012 BCSC 282 at para 17). If done properly, a VOCR serves important public purposes, namely putt the views of a child before the court, reduce litigation and costs between parties and alleviate the financial burden placed on courts by litigious parties.
In light of sections 24(1), (2), and (3)(e) of the Children’s Law Reform Act (“CLRA”), a court must consider “the child’s views and preferences, giving due weight to the child’s age and maturity, unless they cannot be ascertained” when determining the best interests of that child for the purposes of a parenting order. The recent amendments to the CLRA which came into effect earlier last year have added a layer of nuance by asking courts to give due weight to the child’s age and maturity, while the predecessor section 24(2)(b) of the CLRA did not.