Children to be heard in family law cases

Family Law|July 25th 2014

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”.

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  1. Amber Hartman says:

    Justice For Families (JFF) attended this conference.
    Here is a link to the full speech.

  2. Moputabe says:

    Terrible idea in Private family law proceedings as it puts the child in the middle of the conflict and actually making the decisions.

    It is asking children to tell a Judge which parent they want to live with all the risk of those children being pressured and manipulated by parents one way or another.

    Only those who are ignorant of the pressure on children already from parents in these proceedings would consider this a good idea.

    It is shocking that the NFM think it is workable and not detrimental to children, woolly thinking and little understanding of children’s vulnerabilities by them.

  3. Luke says:

    A good decision in my opinion – although the default position unless the child is adamant that they want to comment should be that they are neutral.

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