Children over the age of ten will soon have their wishes given greater weight by the courts in family law cases, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has announced.
They will be able to tell judges directly how they feel about the family disputes they are involved in.
The announcement followed claims from the Family Justice Young People’s Board that children have been “pushed and pulled through the family justice system with little or no say on what happens to them” for too long. The Board was created by Cafcass to ensure the organisation remains focused on children and young people.
Simon Hughes, the Family Justice Minister, said it was about time that the law guaranteed children and young people the opportunity to “have their views heard before decisions are made about their future, and where decisions are made that will impact them.”
He added that, currently, the views of young people are often not heard in family law cases.
Hughes also announced that the changes will include increased access to mediation in cases that affect children.
The news was welcomed by mediation providers. Jane Robey, chief executive of National Family Mediation (NFM) said a child’s presence in divorce cases can often “shift parents’ attention away from bitterness they feel about each other”. She added that young people’s impact on family law proceedings “can literally be life-changing”.
Children will be allowed to participate in both private and public law cases. The changes will be implemented “as soon as is practically possible”.