Section 211 report vs. Hear the Child

Isaac Hill- Section 211 Report vs. Hear the Child, Published February 22, 2024

A section 211 report writer with a clipboard and questionnaire sits across from a teen.

Section 37 in the Family Law Act of British Columbia indicates that the only consideration that courts need to make when making parenting arrangements for a child is a consideration of what is in the child’s best interest. Part of the “best interest” analysis is to look at the child’s views, if appropriate. Whether or not their views are appropriate depends on the child’s age and the child’s maturity. You wouldn’t rely on a 5 year olds views, and you wouldn’t rely on a 14 year old’s view if they have shown themselves to be too immature to give a clear indication of what their views are. 

But how do we get their views before the court? Too often parents will ask their children directly which parent they want to be with. This is a completely inappropriate way to assess the child’s views and places the child directly in the middle of the conflict between their parents. This is not only emotionally and mentally damaging to the child, but you are also unable to get clear reliable evidence from the child regarding their views. No child wants to disappoint or offend their parent, and will say whatever they think their parent wants to hear. 

Instead the courts have a number of tools at their disposal to gather information on the child’s views. The most often used tool is a section 211 report, also known as a s.211 report. A section 211 report comes in two forms: a full report, or the child’s views.

A full section 211 report looks at the child’s views, but there is also an evaluative portion where the report writer will look at the specific needs of the child, and also look at the parents and their ability to meet the needs of that child. A full section 211 report is more in-depth and can provide more insight to the court around the child, the parents, and other specific considerations to be made for the child.

A full section 211 report takes longer to draft, and can be more expensive. If you are retaining someone to draft a section 211 report, they are often clinical psychologists or counsellors with specific expertise in parenting arrangements. The report that they produce is comprehensive in scope and given the report writer’s expertise in parenting arrangements, they hold a lot of weight when presented in court. The cost of these types of reports are often the main deterrent to litigants when looking at a section 211 report. The cost can range between $10,000-$20,000 or more depending on the report writer, the number of children, and other specific considerations to your case. If you need the report writer to come to court to testify, that cost will increase further. This cost can be shared between parties, but the cost can still be prohibitive to many parties. 

If you are trying to just get the child’s views, the assessment itself is less involved, and you can save some money. But the assessment itself will not look at the specific needs of the child, nor at the ability and willingness of the parents to meet those needs. 

Thankfully, there is a free service provided by the court. A section 211 report can also be written by a Family Justice Counsellor. These reports can look at the views, the needs, and the ability of the parents to meet those needs. While these reports are still heavily considered by the court, the report that is drafted is typically not as in-depth as a private report and compared to a private report are generally less instructive to the court. And while the service is free, there is a long wait list in order to have the report drafted. It will likely take between 8-12 months for a full report to be drafted.

If you have the time to wait, and the issues are not too complicated, then having a Family Justice Counsellor draft a section 211 report is a good option. If you need the report quicker, and money is not an option, then a privately obtained report is a good option. If you need a report quicker, but you don’t have the money for one, then you can go for a Hear the Child Report. 

A Hear the Child Report is a report that is drafted by a member of the Hear the Child Society. They are trained professionals that interview children in a neutral way, and then write down the child’s answers to the questions into a report. The interview will happen twice, and the report writer will capture the child’s views in the report. The report itself is non-evaluative and will not make recommendations to the court as to what the report writer thinks is best, but the child’s views will be captured in a report that can be submitted to court and relied on as evidence. 

These reports cost between $1,500-2,500 to draft, but the reports do not look at the needs of the child, nor at the parents abilities to meet those needs. These reports, depending on the writer, can be drafted in a matter of weeks. Hear the Child reports are a great option if you need the report quickly, and you don’t have $10,000 to spend. The downside is that the assessments are not as in-depth compared to a full section 211 report, but if the views of the child are all that are needed, then this is a great option for gathering the necessary information in a timely and cost effective manner. 

If you have any questions about section 211 reports or Hear the Child Reports, then feel free to reach out to our office at 604-545-6145, or email us at office@portsidelaw.ca, and one of our capable lawyers would be happy to assist you. 

Disclaimer – The information found in this document is of general nature and is not intended to be legal advice. Please contact our office to speak further about any particular legal question you may have.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *