Involvement of children in court proceedings

by Kate Marr on April 7, 2016

Kate Marr

Should children be involved in court proceedings about them?

No!

When the court is asked to make orders in respect of the ongoing parenting arrangements, the court can take into account the child’s wishes and feelings from the evidence lead by their parents, any significant person who also files an Affidavit, an Independent Children’s Lawyer (if one is appointed), an expert who has been appointed to prepare a Family Report and from documents that may be produced to the Court as required by a Subpoena. A somewhat alternate approach is that a Judge who is hearing the dispute may meet with the child to discuss their wishes, feelings and other any other matters that may be relevant in their chambers. Even so, children do not generally take an active part as a witness in the court proceedings.

Should however children have a role in any final hearing that affects their future? Perhaps they will feel that they are being better heard and have some say in the outcome determined by the Court? Of course the weight given to any evidence from a child should still be attributed to the child’s age, understanding and motivations. But how does would the Court system overcome the real risk that the child feels torn between their parents in dispute? How does the Court protect a child in circumstances that they may have been a victim to family violence, or there is a risk they will be a victim to family violence if they don’t “side” with a particular parent? 

If your child or children do have strong wishes about the ongoing parenting arrangements, please telephone or email one of our family lawyers. We will be happy to give you advice about how best to present their wishes to the other parent or the Court, in order to vary or obtain parenting orders, if such wishes are consistent with their best interests.

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