Interviewing children is the art and skill of helping children to feel comfortable enough to share very personal thoughts and feelings about areas of their lives that may be emotionally laden, where they may feel conflicted, and where the stakes with regard to their future may feel quite high. Questions must be carefully crafted to accommodate and reflect both the developmental capacity of each unique child, as well as the unique circumstances of each family.
The concept of interviewing children in family law cases was inspired by The International Institute for Child Rights and Development (IICRD) in response to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention states that “Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.”
When you request Brenda to interview your child, this is what you can expect: Brenda takes care and attention to ensure that she understands the issues and concerns before meeting with the child. Recognizing that, as parents, you feel there is a lot at stake, she crafts her questions with care to ensure that issues and concerns are explored from all perspectives. Because Brenda believes it is important for the children’s views to be relayed as accurately as possible, she reports the outcome of the interview by providing a transcribed copy of her questions and the child’s full response to each question.
Brenda has trained extensively with several internationally renowned specialists in the areas of children’s participation in family justice processes, including listening to children’s views, interviewing children, developing appropriate parenting plans, parental alienation, child alienation, and creating parallel parenting plans for high conflict families. Brenda is a Roster Member of the BC Hear the Child Society and continues to education herself as this field continues to develop.
Brenda provides two forms of interviews: Hear the Child Interview and Views of the Child Interview. More information on these two interviews can be found under FAQ’s.
Disclosure and Consent
Interview Intake FormClick here to fill out the form
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Hear the Child Interview?
A Hear the Child Interview is a process whereby the views of the child, with regard to issues that affect the child, are gathered and reported. A Hear the Child Report is a non-evaluative report which means that the writer does not give opinions with regard to the information shared by the child. The interviewer asks the child questions with regard to the child’s living situation, explores what is working and not working for the child, and explores possible changes that may be beneficial to the child. When Brenda writes a Hear the Child Report, she provides a transcript of the entire interview verbatim in order to ensure transparency around the interview process and to ensure your child’s voice is accurately reflected.
Brenda can usually complete a Hear the Child Report within one to three weeks of the time she that she is formally retained to complete the report.
What is a Views of the Child Interview?
A Views of the Child Interview is more involved than a Hear the Child Interview. In addition to gathering and reporting the child’s views with regard to issues that affect the child, the professional also assesses the child with regard to four specific areas: 1) whether a parent is being alienated from the child; 2) whether the child is being estranged/alienated from a parent; 3; whether the child has been influenced to present a particular view; and 4) whether the child understands the implications of the views/preferences being expressed. The process involves two interviews with the child (a few days apart). The Views of the Child Report is comprised of a transcribed copy of both interviews and a written opinion with the regard to the areas that were assessed. The Views of the Child Report falls under Section 211 of the Family Law Act.
Brenda can usually complete a Views of the Child Report within three to six weeks of the time she is formally retained to complete the report.
Another more comprehensive report that also falls under Section 211 of the Family Law Act is a Section 211 Needs of the Child Assessment Report. This report assesses the child’s needs and views, as well as the ability of each of the child’s parents to satisfy the needs of the child. To prepare a Needs of the Child Assessment Report, the professional meets with the child and parents, completes an assessment process, and may also meet with other professionals, family members, or friends affiliated with the family. This report typically takes the professional several months to complete. Brenda does not prepare Section 211 Needs of the Child Assessment Report.
Which form of interview is the right choice for our circumstances?
While your legal counsel will give you advice with regard to which form of report is appropriate for your circumstances, the following guidelines may be helpful. If you wish to have a neutral professional explore with your child how (s)he is doing and what your child’s views or preferences are with regard to living arrangements, and provided there is no concern with regard to the child’s relationship with one parent being undermined or the child being influenced, then a Hear the Child Report is probably appropriate.
If either parent is concerned about issues of alienation, estrangement, influence, or if there is concern that the child may not understand the implications of the views or preferences (s)he might express, then a Views of the Child Report may be more appropriate.
While the cost of the Hear the Child Report is substantially less than the cost of the Views of the Child Report, cost should not be the primary factor in determining the type of report to request.
What will it cost to have my child interviewed?
The cost of a Hear the Child Report is $600 (plus GST) for the first child, and $500 (plus GST) for each additional child.
The cost of a Views of the Child Report is $1800 (plus GST) for the first child, and $1700 (plus GST) for each additional child.
At what age can my child be interviewed?
In order for a Hear the Child or Views of the Child interview to be effective, the child must be capable of forming and communicating his or her own views. Issues surrounding divorce, parenting schedules, mobility, etc. are abstract and complex. Generally speaking, children are able to form and communicate their views on these issues by approximately eight to nine years of age.
Will one or both parents be present during the interview?
No. Parents are asked to drop the child off for the interview and to return 45 to 60 minutes later to pick up their child. In an effort to minimize the risk of the interview being biased, children are interviewed in the absence of family members or friends who know the child.
If we have more than one child, will the children be interviewed together?
No. Because it is normal for siblings to have different views on the family situation, it is important to hear and document the unique voice of each child, as opposed to hearing one “collective voice.”
How do you know what questions to ask my child?
In preparation for the interview, each parent is asked to complete an Interview Intake Form which provides background information and a summary of the particular issues that are to be explored with your child. The lawyers representing each parent may also be consulted for information regarding the relevant issues.
Who receives a copy of your report?
The report is provided to each of the lawyers of the parties involved. If a party is self-represented, then the report is provided directly to that party. A Hear the Child Report will be filed at the court registry if a court order specifies that it is to be filed. A Views of the Child Report will be filed at the court registry.
What if my child shows signs of distress during the interview?
The child’s distress will be met with compassion and empathy. On the rare occasion where the child shows significant distress or fatigue, the interview may be shortened, which may necessitate eliminating some relevant questions. The purpose of the Hear the Child and Views of the Child interview is to gather information that is important to the child’s present and future living situation. It is not intended to be a therapeutic interview. Although Brenda is trained as a clinical counsellor and psychotherapist, it would be a conflict for her to provide counselling services to a child, having conducted a Hear the Child or Views of the Child Interview.
How do we prepare our child for the interview?
It is important that you do not attempt to prepare or pressure your child in any way. However, it is important that your child understand who (s)he is going to see and why. As you discuss the interview, use very neutral language and encourage your child to simply answer the questions. For example, you might say “Brenda is going to ask you some questions about our family. Your Mom/Dad and I both want your opinions and ideas to be heard so your job is to simply answer Brenda’s questions as fully and honestly as you can.”
The information contained in the Hear the Child or Views of the Child report must be disclosed to all parties involved in the process. Therefore, you must be careful not to give your child the impression that you, as parents, will not be privy to the information that the child shares.
If we decide to have our child(ren) interviewed by Brenda, what is the procedure?
If you choose Brenda to interview your child, the process begins with the parties involved completing an Interview Intake Form. This form can be accessed from Brenda's website. Click on "Interview Intake Form," complete the form on line, then click on the “submit” button. Note that, if more than one family member is to be interviewed, one form must be completed for each child.
Once completed Interview Intake Forms and Agreements are received from all parties, Brenda will schedule the interview(s), ensuring that she allows herself sufficient time to review the information provided and to prepare the interview(s). A letter is sent to all parties confirming the interview date(s) and providing all the information you will require to ensure the interview process goes smoothly. The letter will also inform you of the date by which you can expect a completed report.
Please note that interviews are not scheduled until completed documents are received from all parties involved.
What can I do if my child's other parent refuses to have my child interviewed?
A Hear the Child Report or Views of the Child Report can be completed by court order or by consent of both parents. Exceptions are: if only one guardian is named in a Family Law Act court order, or if one guardian has limited parenting responsibilities under s. 41 of the Family Law Act.
If one parent wishes to have the child interviewed and the other parent does not, then the parent who wishes to have the child interviewed must obtain a court order. It is strongly recommended you ask the judge to specify in the court order who will pay for the interview.