22 June 2011
Family Law, Childs play? Chris Longbottom discusses
The BBC has recently reported that children are to be asked about their views of family law with the aim to help improve the system and allow children to have a greater voice when parents separate.
The guide, which can be accessed here, has been prepared by the children's rights director, Roger Morgan, specifically for young people and seeks to inform them as to how to give opinions on how they should be treated. He stated that it was essential that children were informed and part of proposals that will affect their life.
I agree that it is important to obtain the child’s view of contact, but care needs to be taken as to determining their level of understanding of the implications of their decisions, ensuring that those decisions are made without outside influence and also ensuring that the child does not take advantage of the situation by playing one parent off against the other.
The comments will form part of the government's current review of the family justice system. The review's chairman, David Norgrove, said it was vital children had a voice.
"The publication of the Young Person's Guide gives them this opportunity and the panel will carefully consider what they say."
"Our recommendations aim to bring children to the forefront by creating greater coherence through organisational change and better management, making the system more able to cope with current and future pressures and diverting more issues away from court where appropriate."
The review panel published its interim report in March, while a public consultation on its proposals is now under way and seeks to help families resolve matters without the need of court proceedings. The panel spent a year speaking to children, parents and those who work in family justice and believe that the findings showed that the system did not fully benefit the children and families it was designed for. It also recommends the use of parenting agreements, which would bring together arrangements for children's care after separation and focusing on where the child spends time.
Whilst I believe this to be a sensible aim, not all cases and matters can be resolved without the need of legal advice, and in some cases, judicial involvement and families should seek advice as soon as possible.
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