What is the Hear the Child Process?
The Family Law Act states that when determining the best interests of a child the parties and the court must consider the child’s views unless it would be inappropriate to consider them. One way to obtain a child or youth’s views is to obtain a Hear the Child Report (‘HTC Report’).
A HTC Report is a non-evaluative, verbatim report on the views of the child on issues related to family transition or family breakdown for the purpose of having the views of the child or youth considered when decisions are made about their best interest. The child has control over what is included in the report and nothing is put in the report without the child’s permission. An HTC report does not contain any recommendations, nor does it state the opinions of the interviewer.
The report can be done by ‘Agreement’ between the guardians and the interviewer, by a consent order or by a judicial court order. When the HTC report is by ‘Agreement’ I require all guardians to sign the ‘Agreement for a Hear the Child Interview’ and return it to me.
Prior to the interview, I like to speak with each parent’s legal counsel (if involved) to get the background on why a report is being requested and to get some very basic background on the issues in dispute. I may ask for copies of any relevant court orders or documents before the court.
I also have a brief phone call with each parent prior to the interview. The interview with each parent is to identify the issues or questions each parent wishes canvassed with the child. While I may ask both parents to provide me with some general background, I do not go into any great detail with either parent on the issues before the court or issues being addressed in mediation.
I have two interviews with the child; the first is about an hour; the second one may be shorter. Neither parent will be in the room with the child during the interview. I work with parents and/or legal counsel to determine the dates and times for the interviews and to establish a date by which the report is due.
Transportation of the child to and from the interviews is to be shared equally between the parents, wherever possible. Legal counsel, if involved, may be asked to participate in making the transportation arrangements.
Here are some key points about the interview:
- Most importantly, I work through the lens of the child and their view on parenting arrangements, not through the lens of the parents’ dispute
- Children are not decision-makers; the report is being prepared to help their parents, guardians, legal counsel and judges make decisions about their parenting arrangements
- Your child is in charge of whether and how they respond to my questions
- All responses will be reviewed with them; it is their decision on what gets included in my report
- The information is to help parents make the decisions about their child(ren)’s living arrangements or other issues
- I make detailed notes of what the child is saying
- The interview is not evaluative—I am not making any recommendations, simply reporting on what the child is saying.
- There is to be no coaching of the child as to what they say to me; nor is there to be any questioning of the child once the interview is completed, or once the report is received
- The child is to be prepared for the interview by telling them it is their opportunity to share their views on their living arrangements or other issues; as parents you should voice your support for speaking with me.
- If there are child protection concerns, by law I have to report them.
While each interview is tailored specifically to the needs of each child, the questions typically fall into three basic categories:
- Some general questions on how things are going for them now that their parents live in separate houses
- Specific questions about time spent with each parent
- Questions about future parenting arrangements
If a party or the parties require the Interviewer to attend court, the party(ies) shall make separate, advance fee arrangements with the Interviewer. More information is available at the website: http://hearthechild.ca/. Please do not hesitate to contact me with further questions.
What Happens Now?
- Initial Information Sessions: Participants may choose to attend individual information sessions to learn a bit about me and my practices. Those sessions are usually up to about 30 mins each and free of charge. These are totally optional, and some folks just choose to complete intake forms and get started right away. These information sessions can be done with both parties in attendance at the same time, or separately.
- Intake Forms: If you decide to proceed with me after an initial information session (assuming you chose to do one), the next step is for both of you to submit completed intake forms. These need to be submitted before the interviews can move forward.
- Other Relevant Forms: If there are any other Orders, Agreements, or reports (such as counseling reports or Section 211 reports) relevant to your parenting, please forward them to me.
- Scheduling Interviews: Once I have your forms back, and a copy of the court order, we can schedule the interviews. The first one is typically an hour per child and then they sometimes want a little additional time to attend together. The second interview is often much shorter, usually about 20 minutes.
- Meeting Platform: Hear the Child interviews can be done over video conferencing (doxy.me) or in person, and this can change at any point during the process. Further instructions on how to use doxy.me are provided as a part of this package. You’ll also find directions to my office in the intake package.
- How to book a meeting: This is link to my calendar on my website for booking: https://katbellamano.com/appointments/ . If you decide to schedule a meeting virtually, I will send you a link to the doxy.me meeting upon receiving your scheduling request.
- Fees: The interviewer will be paid in advance of release of the report for all work performed including meeting with the child(ren), reporting on their views and distributing the Hear the Child Report. If incurred, travel expenses are extra. See Fees page for current rates.
- Payment can be made by e-transfer to email@example.com, cheque in the mail or credit card payment over the phone.
Hear the Child Forms Checklist:
This intake package contains the following forms that need to be filled and returned:
- Intake Form and any Appendixes
- Hear the Child Agreement to Participate
- An initial Copy of the Agreement
- Technology consent
* Also, please reply to confirm whether the email address I have for you can be shared with the other party for the purposes of our shared communication.