Children’s views and wishes in court proceedings
When court proceedings involve parents who cannot agree on which parent their child or children should live with or how the children’s time should be divided between parents Cafcass become involved. Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) are independent of courts and help over 140,000 children each year going through care or adoption proceedings. Cafcass become involved in such cases to act as a voice for the children in family courts and help to ensure the children’s welfare is the number one priority in proceedings. Cafcass then prepare a report and advise the court on its findings.
As Cafcass work with the children involved often parents react in three different ways: encouraging, concerned and apprehensive or they believe the child or children involved are too young to make decisions. Generally if parents are going through a difficult divorce or separation they can let their feelings towards the other parent act as a barrier to arrangements for their children. Cafcass act as a neutral third party to ensure the feelings and wishes of the child or children are taken on board when a final decision is made by the court.
The court also considers a number of aspects from the so-called ‘welfare checklist’, as does Cafcass, including the child’s needs and wishes, age and background, any potential risks to the child and how capable each parent is.
Finally, Cafcass also help to determine a child’s true emotions and wishes towards living arrangements and visitation. They work to ensure the children are not repeating a ‘script’ which one or both parents have told the child to say. Gentle encouragement is used to gain the child’s trust and allow them to open up if they wish to do so. Overall, children’s views are now being taking more seriously by courts when determining their future which is a positive step for care proceedings.