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When a parent makes an application to the court about future arrangements regarding the children of the family after separation or divorce, the court usually appoints a CAFCASS officer to interview the children in question to ascertain their wishes and feelings about which parent they wish to live with, how much time they want to spend with the non-resident parent etc. The older the child, the more weight its wishes and feelings are given.
Now the government has made a commitment that, from the age of 10, children and young people involved in all family court hearings in England and Wales will have access to judges to make their views and feelings known.
Family Justice Minister Simon Hughes said: “Children and young people must by law have their views heard before decisions are made about their future”. At the moment, it is still too often that their views are not heard. Our commitment to giving children the chance to speak to a judge and make clear their views means children will not only be seen in family courts but they will have their own voice heard. This will put them firmly at the heart of the Family Justice System”.
The government will also work with the mediator sector so that children have appropriate access to mediators if mediation is the parents’ chosen method of dispute resolution.
The age of 10 has been used to be consistent with other existing policy and practice in this country. It is the age of criminal responsibility for young people in England and Wales.
These changes will be implemented as soon as is practicable.
For further information and advice on this issue, and other family law issues, please contact us for a free initial consultation on 01992 306 616 or 0207 956 2740 or email us.Back to Law Articles