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Should Children Be Heard In Court?

View profile for Barbro Zeineh
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Staggering statistics show that last year more than 100,000 children were involved in wrangles between their parents in relation to which parent the children should have as his or her main home, level of contact, should one parent be given permission to remove the children from England and Wales and other specific applications in relation to a child’s care. From my experience as a Family Lawyer for over thirty years, even where there are no disputes between the parents this has a detrimental effect on the child, let alone where the parents are “fighting” over what he or she thinks is right for that child.

Courtroom settingOf late, and not for the first time, the point has been raised whether children should be heard in family court cases. Where there is an application before the Court where there are welfare concerns, the Court will order a report by CAFCASS (Court and Family Advisory Support Service). The author of the report will look at various aspects including the wishes and feelings of the child with the ultimate aim to protect the child and promote the relationship with both parents. A child of four year of age for instance expressing a wish not to see one parent will have far less impact than an older child expressing the same wish which would warrant further exploration as to why the child has reached that decision and whether the child is of an age to understand the implications.

There are many cases where one parent has unduly influenced a child’s express wishes and hence the invaluable input of CAFCASS in assessing what is best for the child. 

Attending Court can be a very daunting experience for a parent let alone a child, even if seeing a Judge in his or her private room. In my view, it would routinely not be appropriate nor practical for a Judge to deal with each and every child. However each case needs to be looked at individually and there should be the option available for a Judge to see a child where for instance recommended by CAFCASS. However in some instances it could have the negative impact of the child for instance playing one parent against the other, feeling that he or she is in charge of the outcome rather than looking at the fuller picture. 

For more information on the effects of separation on children or on taking the next step in your separation or divorce please contact our family team to discuss your options on 01908 660966 or 01604 828282 for a confidential conversation on how we can help.