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Children aged 10 to be seen AND heard in family disputes

Last week, the Government unveiled its intention to give children from the age of 10 a greater voice in the family justice system.

Under the new rules, children will be able to tell judges how they feel and what they think about the family disputes they are involved in.

Family Justice Minister Simon Hughes said: “children and young people must by law have their views heard before decisions are made about their future and where decisions are made that will impact them.  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.”

Actons director and family lawyer, Mike Spencer said: “I believe that children should have a greater voice, not just when the parents are involved in the court process, but also when parents are resolving disputes through mediation.  Parents have avoided court process once they have agreed to allow the children to have a voice and speak to a trained professional.”

How we can help

At Actons, we will consult children when:

  • Parents are not clear what their child/children are thinking

  • Parents need professional assistance to help children understand what is happening, and/or encourage to seek appropriate support.  

  • Parents do not agree on arrangements for the children

We will only see children when consent is available from both parents, and more importantly a commitment from the parents to listen to their children’s voice.

Research tells us that most children feel powerless in situations of family change.  They find themselves in situations which they are forced to accept, and yet they feel they have had no say. Only 5 % of children said that they had been fully informed and encouraged to ask questions during the process.

Children and young people want to be consulted in decisions that affect them – they want to be listened to, but not to have the ultimate responsibility for decision making.

  • Our aim in mediation is to provide someone to listen to children’s views, and experience and support them and their parents, in continuing to  talk during times of difficult family changes.
  • Help children to understand the processes they and their parents are going through
  • Facilitating contact and an ongoing relationships with non-resident parents, unless there are good reasons for this not to happen.

Posted on August 4, 2014

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