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Voice of the Child Interview for Settling Parenting Disputes

July 26, 2016

Separated parents in conflict argue as to the child views and preferences in terms of their residential arrangement. What parents in dire conflict forget is that the views and preference of the child may be expressed to a parent only to appease a parents wishes.

The child sees the anger and and animosity from one parent to the other and doesn’t want to be the brunt of those toxic negative feelings. The child’s only escape is to appease BOTH parents by telling each parent what the child believes that parent wants to hear. While this strategy of the child lowers their perceived risk of recrimination from the parent, it at the same time ramps up the parental conflict as each parent believes to have received the truth about their child’s preferences. This is a set up for a terrible merry-go-round of increasing conflict and animosity typically culminating in a court battle.

To bring some resolution to the situation, some lawyers seek to obtain a “voice of the child” interview. This entails a neutral service provider meeting with the child to obtain a less biased view of the child’s views and preferences. The structure of this service process is crucial lest the process of obtaining the child’s voice actually escalate conflict. This is not something to be carried out willy-nilly and certainly not by an inexperienced person.

Regardless of how appropriately the views and preferences of the child are obtained though, the structure of resolving maters through an adversarial approach remains and creates the conditions akin to bringing gas to a fire.

I was recently asked to provide a voice of the child interview for court purposes. I explained to the referring lawyer that I no longer offer services for court purposes. I went on to explain that I do provide this service, but only for settlement purposes, outside of a court process, such as in mediation or collaborative law or even in lawyer assisted negotiations.

I provided the lawyer with a link to explain the process of voice of the child interviews as they are not as simple as one might think.

The lawyer replied:

I really like your approach to this. The lawyer I mentioned would not get authorization to pay for this type of approach, however, I just got off the phone with a different lawyer on another case so will recommend he speak with his client about getting your help as his client is paying privately. When I have private paying clients I would definitely recommend your closed service. The most important thing is to understand our children’s needs first. Have a great day and thanks for making families days greater too.

I am not quite sure why my service couldn’t still be utilized in a context of publicly funded service. However, I am pleased that the lawyer values seeking to resolve matters outside of court and will put my service forward as a potential peacemaking alternative.

If you really want to elevate the best interests of the child, seek peace above all else.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker facilitating the positive growth and development of people and services. It would be my pleasure to be of service.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships

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