The Voice Of The Child Will Be Heard!

As a result of new Government proposals announced on the 30th July 2014, children from the age of 10 will be able to speak to a Judge dealing with any dispute between their parents regarding their day to day arrangements. These changes are to be implemented as soon as possible.

When a Judge is asked to determine any dispute involving a child legislation states that the welfare of the child is paramount. The Judge then has to go on to consider a number of factors known as the "Welfare Checklist”. This  includes the "wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his age and understanding)”.

Until now, a child's wishes and feelings have usually only been investigated by an Officer from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass)who provide a written report for the Judge.

A child's wishes and feelings do not necessarily determine the outcome of a dispute. A number of other factors have also to be considered but the child's welfare will remain the paramount consideration.

The importance in welfare determinations of a child's wishes and feelings will increase with the childs age and level of understanding. Therefore, the closer a child is to maturity the more their wishes and feelings in the light of their age and understanding will carry weight.

The Family Justice Council published guidelines in April 2010, for Judges prepared to meet children which makes it clear that:

  • A child is not led to believe they will be responsible for the decision made by the Court.
  • Must not place them in the middle of their parents' conflict.
  • Be honest with them about the problem of confidentiality.
  • Not make promises about the ultimate outcome.

The Government are hopeful that these changes will help parents shift their attention from anger and bitterness towards each other by placing the interests of their children first.