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Important decisions about a child’s life are made during private law proceedings—but a large proportion of children are invisible to the professionals involved, and have no voice. New research shows

Research by the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory (Nuffield FJO) carried out by the Family Justice Data Partnership (a collaboration between Lancaster University and Swansea University) shows that when parents separate in England and Wales they use the Family Court. to reach decisions about child rearing. About half of the children involved are not formally asked how they feel about the arrangements, even though they are likely to have significant and lasting effects on their lives.

A surprising finding is that A It has little bearing on whether they get to participate in the proceedings.

The study explored children’s participation in Section 8 applications (for child arrangements, specific issue and prohibitive measures orders) that began in England and Wales in 2019.

It found that almost half of the 67,000 children involved did not have the opportunity to formally express their wishes and feelings or to be involved in potentially life-changing decisions.

The research mirrors the findings of an earlier Nuffield FJO and Family Justice Data Partnership study, but also reveals that older children and young people are often not involved in decisions.

For a fifth of 10- to 13-year-olds in England, and a large proportion of older teenagers, there was no indication that they had formally taken part in the process, similar to The specimen was seen in Wales.

The right to participate in decisions about children and the importance of considering their wishes and feelings when making decisions is recognized in legislation and guidance, including section 1 of the Children’s Act 1989, UN Rights Article 12 of the Convention. The child, and Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Research has also highlighted how important it is for children to feel heard and understood when the family court is making decisions about them, and how they suffer when they are not. can. Giving children a voice in matters that concern their welfare has also been found to improve their experience of proceedings and to feel positive about court decisions.

There is currently no universal practice in England or Wales to ensure that children’s voices are systematically heard in private family law cases, and family courts often make decisions about children’s lives directly from them. She does it without listening.

Within the current system, a child can only participate through formal welfare reports, or in rare cases, through the appointment of a guardian. However, these measures are not ordered in all cases, and under the current framework cannot be ordered before the first hearing.
Furthermore, they do not mean that the child has been consulted. A report may be written, or the child may be observed, but this does not mean that their wishes and feelings are captured.

Commenting on the research findings, Olivia, a 21-year-old member of the Family Justice Young People’s Board, said, “It’s just not good enough that only half of children and young people are able to participate in decisions about their future. Can easily affect their lives and the fact that they don’t get a say, it’s scary. The report raises important questions about how, in cases where the child has no participation, the court was able to consider the child’s wishes and feelings, as the law says it should.”

The research findings and the concerns they raise help strengthen the case for expanding the private law Pathfinder Court model, which includes engagement with all children as standard. It was launched in North Wales and Dorset in early 2022 and will soon be introduced in Birmingham and Cardiff and the surrounding area.

The court is the method used to resolve disputes between parents over the arrangements for their children. Through the preparation of the Child Impact Report, there is a clear focus on enhancing the child’s voice by giving all children (only those with welfare concerns) the opportunity to have their wishes and feelings heard before the first hearing.

Lisa Harker, director of Nuffield FJO, said: “Very important decisions about a child’s life are made during private law proceedings – but a large proportion of children are not seen by the professionals involved, and have no No sound. Children of all ages—even and young people, who are normally expected to They are not being consulted about other aspects of their lives.

“What’s troubling is that children can feel completely ignored, that their views are not even valued. They clearly need a greater, more meaningful level of involvement. Children to participate in the initiation of proceedings.”

Dr Claire Hargreaves, senior research associate at Lancaster University, said: “For many years, there have been concerns that current structures do not allow us to ‘hear’ children well in private law proceedings. Inputs are too few and too late.

“This study raises further questions about whether the system is meeting children’s needs and promoting their rights. More research is needed to understand more about children’s experiences when they make decisions. participate in shaping—including the extent to which their views are heard and acted upon and how children of different ethnic groups experience participation.”

The research was based on anonymised, population-level administrative data from Cafcass and Cafcass Cymru on all children involved in private family law proceedings involving a Section 8 application and between 1 January and 31 December 2019. between 62,732 children in England and 4,293 children in Wales

Child participation was studied over a period of three years from the date of case initiation. Four key indicators of participation derived from administrative data were taken as indicators that a child had been directly consulted: a Cafcass Section 7 Welfare Report/Cafcass Cymru Child Impact Analysis, a local authority A section 7 welfare report, a local authority section 37 report, or a rule 16.4 appointment of a guardian.

Claire Hargreaves et al. Uncovering Private Family Law: How Often Do We Hear the Voice of the Child? Nuffield Family Justice Observatory (2024)

Reference: New Research Reveals Children ‘Voiceless’ in Family Courts (2024, February 21) February 21, 2024 https://phys.org/news/2024-02-reveals-children-voice-family-courts Obtained from html

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