Interviewing children

Family mediation and parenting coordination is child-focused, with the child’s best interests always the top item on the agenda.

Our professionals are trained to interview children and prepare reports about their views and wishes.

Our experience, supported by research, shows that parents work better together once their children’s voices have been heard—even if they have strongly different opinions or are considered ‘high conflict’.

Where parents cannot agree about what is best for their child 8 years of age or older, we will seek their consent (and that of the child)  to conduct an interview and prepare a non-evaluative report.

Our standard protocol includes preparing the parents and the child for the interview and the use of standard, non-leading questions. 

When we interview children, we ask them open ended questions about their lives, friends, school, pets, hobbies, jobs, family and community.  We ask about their relationship with their parents and with other important family and community members. We follow up on questions that the parents have raised as concerns for them. Our only agenda is to provide a safe place for the child to have their voice heard.

It is important that children feel comfortable speaking with us, and that they understand their interview is voluntary. They can choose to not answer any question, and they can end the interview at any time. They are told that they alone will determine what is included in the report.

Non-evaluative, verbatim reports on the child’s wishes

Following a standardized two-interview protocol, we record what the child tells us, prepare a written report and have the child read and approve it.

We make no comments, judgements, recommendations or evaluation. We only include information approved by the child.

The report can be used:

  1. To help parents reach agreements in mediation. For this purpose, we meet with the parents and share with them, orally, what their child said to us.
  2. To help us make decisions as parenting coordinators. For this purpose, we share the written report with the parents , giving them the opportunity to make submissions on the weight we should give to the report.
  3. To share with the court or other mediators, parenting coordinators or arbitrators. For this purpose, we will follow our standard protocols and prepare a written report.

Before we meet

Read the "Getting Started" guide

We Protect the Child’s Confidential Information

We have designed our protocols to ensure children come first.

  • We provide parents and their children with information to help them understand and be well prepared for the interview and the report.
  • We let children know that we will only include in the report what they authorize.
  • Reports are reviewed and approved, word for word, by the child.
  • Our notes and records are confidential, and cannot be disclosed under any circumstances.
  • If a parent using the report in an arbitration or in court wishes to examine the interviewer, that parent is required to retain counsel for the child on the examination and to pay the interviewer’s hourly rate. A cross-examination on a verbatim report that the child has approved can serve to undermine that child’s voice, and the child should therefore have counsel present. Further, our notes and records will not be disclosed without a court order under any circumstances.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

Who Can Request a Child Interview and Report?

  1. Parents working with us as their mediator, parenting coordinator or mediator-arbitrator.
  2. Other mediators, parenting coordinators or arbitrators.
  3. Parents in court or their lawyers.

What are the Steps?

  1. Parents complete the intake forms and Agreement on our website.
  2. Parents each pay their share of the fee online, or one parent pays the full cost.
  3. We will usually speak briefly with any referring counsel.
  4. We will send each parent information about the process including information to help them prepare the child.
  5. We will have separate meetings with each parent to learn their concerns, and the issues they would like us to raise with the child.
  6. Each parent will schedule a time to bring the child for a meeting. We try to schedule the two meetings roughly one or two weeks apart at most. Each meeting with the child will take about one hour. Parents are not present during the meetings

What Kinds of Questions is the Child Asked?

We have a standard question protocol that is used in every child interview. It is based on our training and best practices. We do not share the exact questions with parents, counsel nor the court. The parents are given more information in the package they are sent to help their child prepare. The questions asked include:

  • General questions about how things are going in various spheres of their life
  • General questions about how things are going for them in their day to day residential arrangements, school, travel between homes, transitions, and activities.
  • Open ended questions about their relationships with each parent, siblings, other family members, neighbours, friends, teachers, community members and other supports.
  • General questions about how they feel about any counselling or therapy.
  • Broad questions about their preferences and what, in a perfect world, might they wish could be different
  • Any advice or recommendations they have for their parents or others
  • Any views, concerns or wishes they have on any of the issues their parents asked us to ask them about, or any other matters they wish to discuss.

What Else Do I Need to know?

Here are some key points:

  • We work through the lens of the child and their views on the parenting arrangements and issues, and not through the lens of the parents’ dispute.
  • Children are not decision-makers. The report is prepared to help their parents, guardians, legal counsel, parenting coordinators, mediators, arbitrators or courts make decisions that affect them;
  • The child is in control of determining whether or how to respond to questions;
  • All responses will be reviewed with the child. It is their decision what to include in the report
  • The information is intended to help parents make decisions themselves about the issues affecting their children, and, if they cannot, to assist the mediator, arbitrator, parenting coordinator or court in making the decision in the child’s best interests;
  • The interviewer will take detailed notes of what the child tells them;
  • The interview is not evaluative. No judgements or assessments of any kind are made. We literally report on what the child is saying.
  • Parents, guardians and advisors are not to coach the child as to what they should or should not say during their interview. Children are not to be questioned after the interview about what they said, nor after the Report is delivered.
  • The child should be prepared for the interview by being told that it is their opportunity to share their views on their living arrangements (or other issues). The parents/guardians should voice their support for the child speaking up.

If there are any child protection concerns or safety concerns, these must be reported by the interviewer.

Are There Exceptions to Confidentiality?

If a child or parent shares information with us that causes us to believe that a child is at risk of harm, we have a duty to make that report to a Children’s Aid Society. If we receive information indicating that any person is in imminent danger we may have a duty to report or warn of that risk.

How Long Does the Child Interview and Report Take?

Depending on the schedules of all involved, we usually prepare the report within 3-4 weeks of the first child interview.

What is the Cost?

We charge a low flat rate per child. Please ask us about our fees. Additional fees are required should a court attendance be required.