Family Matters

Your monthly family law digest from Woolley & Co, Solicitors


November 2017

The pros and cons of involving children in family law proceedings

The debate about whether children should have a voice in cases which decide their future was recently reignited. The BBC reported (Should children be heard in English family court cases?) that some children and campaigners supported by some senior family law judges wanted to see a change in the law to allow children to speak to the judge in their case, if they so choose.

In Brief

Questions divorcing clients are embarrassed to ask

In my experience as a divorce and family law solicitor I find that people often feel embarrassed asking basic legal questions as they feel that they will look stupid.  I am asked the same questions time and time again...
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Family law reporting: mind your language

The language we use around family law shapes how we think about it. This is the very simple rationale behind “custody” changing to “child arrangements” for example is to encourage parents to think of routines and...
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Divorce courts and system creaking under the strain?

As Resolution family lawyers, we are always encouraging our clients to try and be reasonable, to be willing to compromise, and to keep their case in proportion. “Don’t let the lawyers be the ones who get all...
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University fees – the obligations of a parent

As new terms started recently many students will have thought long and hard about the likely costs of going to university.  In a BBC article a few months ago the average student debt was calculated to be an eye...
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Three of the best tips for fathers on divorce

Divorce is not easy for anyone involved. The husband and wife, kids, grandparents, friends. Everyone will be affected in different ways. The key thing is to navigate the process and negotiations in as calm a sea as possible.In my...
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Is this a sensible idea or not?

The current position regarding the child’s voice

At present children have no right to speak to a judge that might be deciding a case about their future and whether they should live with, mum, dad or neither of their parents.

An independent organisation called CAFCASS is appointed in cases involving children to report to the court and the judge about what is in the best interest and welfare of the children. Where a child is about 8 years or older CAFCASS can also send a report to the court setting out what that child’s ‘wishes and feelings’ are about the case.

However, even with older children and teenagers they rarely get to meet a judge or speak to them personally.

Therefore, some children and particularly older ones must naturally feel they have no say in any decision about them and this can feel very unfair.

The advantages of children speaking directly to a judge

Giving a child a voice in family proceedings would help children feel that are properly part of a process which is making decisions about them. It could help them feel involved and that they too have a say. For older children it could be an invaluable way to try and assist them to come to terms with the situation they find themselves in.

The disadvantages of children speaking directly to a judge

For younger children it may not be so appropriate as they may feel under pressure to say the right thing or feel intimidated by having to meet a judge even if that is just in an office rather than a courtroom.

It is a complex debate and there is probably no one answer that fits all, as every case about children is different and every child is different. As a result, a change in the law that sees all children from a certain age automatically made to speak to the judge is probably not right.

As in most family law matters but particularly sensitive ones which involve children it is very important that each case is considered individually, which is why it is also very important to take specialist and bespoke advice about such issues.

Luci Larkin
Family law solicitor, Barnet


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