In my practice, whenever there are children involved in a separation or divorce I request that the child goes for a Voice of the Child (VOC) interview. One reason being is that a child has the right to have their voice heard in matters that affect him or her.
A VOC is conducted to enable children to have the opportunity to be heard in their parent’s separation or divorce proceedings. The interview provides information about what the child thinks and where they are at emotionally in regards to their parent’s dispute. The interview is carried out on children aged 4 to seventeen years of age by either a registered Psychologist or Social Worker and both parents must consent.
The interview is not intended for forensic or legal purposes it is conducted without prejudice. The intention is for the child to be given the opportunity to communicate their emotions in a safe and confidential environment with a professional and neutral third party. The therapist uses projective tests which are tests designed to let a person respond to ambiguous stimuli, revealing hidden emotions and internal conflicts projected by the child in the test.
As a result of the interview, the therapist writes a report and then provides feedback to the parents and the mediator. They shall explain what tests were used, their observations and information gathered and then provide guidelines or recommendations going forward.
Examples of guideline or recommendations are:
- “It may be a good idea to inform teachers about the situation as it may affect J socially
or scholastically. His teachers would be in a good situation to monitor his adjustment outside
of the home.”
- “If there are to be changes in family structure, roles and routines, the adults in J’s life
should make efforts to prepare him for this and retain some form of routine and consistency
in order for him to feel safe and secure.”
- “Creating an environment for J to feel open and safe to ask questions is important. He
may need some time before making comments and asking questions, and that sense of
openness should be readily available.”
This information helps parents have a clearer understanding as to where their child is at in terms of their dispute and guides them for when mediating the parenting plan. It can also highlight areas that they need to focus on more and overall start building the foundation to co-parenting effectively.