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Should children be heard in family court cases? Watch

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    In a story by the BBC today, questions are being asked as to whether the law should be changed to allow children to be heard during family court cases in England and Wales.

    As it stands, guardian service Cafcass asks the child about their feelings and communicates them in a report to the court.

    Many campaigners and judges are unhappy with this, as they feel this means the child doesn't really have a voice.

    What do you think? Should children be a more direct part of proceedings in family court?
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    (Original post by BlinkyBill)
    In a story by the BBC today, questions are being asked as to whether the law should be changed to allow children to be heard during family court cases in England and Wales.

    As it stands, guardian service Cafcass asks the child about their feelings and communicates them in a report to the court.

    Many campaigners and judges are unhappy with this, as they feel this means the child doesn't really have a voice.

    What do you think? Should children be a more direct part of proceedings in family court?
    Having read the article its hard to see why you would argue against it as long as its not compulsory. The only reason I can see is the judge isnt an expert social worker and would need specific training plus guidelines. I think it would be a major advantage for the judge to get an impression of the child and good for the child in feeling heard.

    There may be some situations where its not suitable, hence the need for guidelines.
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    (Original post by BlinkyBill)
    In a story by the BBC today, questions are being asked as to whether the law should be changed to allow children to be heard during family court cases in England and Wales.

    As it stands, guardian service Cafcass asks the child about their feelings and communicates them in a report to the court.

    Many campaigners and judges are unhappy with this, as they feel this means the child doesn't really have a voice.

    What do you think? Should children be a more direct part of proceedings in family court?


    One is asking a lot of judges who may not be parents or whose own experiences of parenthood may be far removed from that of the children coming before the family courts.

    If the child is a witness then fairness dictates that the parents' lawyers should be able to question them. Do we really want lawyers asking four year olds why they want to live with Mummy rather than Daddy and do we want lawyers asking them whether Mummy told them to say they didn't like Daddy?

    I think one would do a lot better with recording or videoing the social workers' interviews with the children and playing them in court.
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    (Original post by nulli tertius)
    One is asking a lot of judges who may not be parents or whose own experiences of parenthood may be far removed from that of the children coming before the family courts.

    If the child is a witness then fairness dictates that the parents' lawyers should be able to question them. Do we really want lawyers asking four year olds why they want to live with Mummy rather than Daddy and do we want lawyers asking them whether Mummy told them to say they didn't like Daddy?
    I agree with the latter proposition. But the idea that judges who are not parents would be less well-equipped... in almost every case that comes before a judge, it will involve things of which they have no life experience.

    I've now done a few Employment Tribunal cases as a lay rep (suitably supervised by a solicitor.. I'm not some McKenzie Friend cowboy) and I would be shocked if the judges I've been in front of had ever been dismissed before, or dismissed someone, or been the subject of sex discrimination. If anything, the judges lack of personal experience means they do not come with preconceptions.

    We ask judges to give rulings by applying common sense, empathy and pragmatism to the law in situations about which they have no personal familiarity. The family court seems little different in that respect.
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    (Original post by BlinkyBill)
    In a story by the BBC today, questions are being asked as to whether the law should be changed to allow children to be heard during family court cases in England and Wales.

    As it stands, guardian service Cafcass asks the child about their feelings and communicates them in a report to the court.

    Many campaigners and judges are unhappy with this, as they feel this means the child doesn't really have a voice.

    What do you think? Should children be a more direct part of proceedings in family court?
    I think it really depends on what the court is about.
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    (Original post by AlexanderHam)
    I agree with the latter proposition. But the idea that judges who are not parents would be less well-equipped... in almost every case that comes before a judge, it will involve things of which they have no life experience.

    I've now done a few Employment Tribunal cases as a lay rep (suitably supervised by a solicitor.. I'm not some McKenzie Friend cowboy) and I would be shocked if the judges I've been in front of had ever been dismissed before, or dismissed someone, or been the subject of sex discrimination. If anything, the judges lack of personal experience means they do not come with preconceptions.
    Which is why Employment Tribunals are equipped with wing members

    We ask judges to give rulings by applying common sense, empathy and pragmatism to the law in situations about which they have no personal familiarity. The family court seems little different in that respect.
    It isn't about deciding. You are perfectly correct about that.

    This is about interviewing and despite the increasing prevalence of litigants in person, most of our judicial system is arranged around the idea that judges do not interrogate.

    You can't ask a child to explain himself. He has to be questioned to contribute anything useful and the questioning has to be age appropriate and socially appropriate. A social worker is far better placed to do that.

    What a number of judges do now, which I welcome, is turn adoption orders for children into a sort of welcoming ceremony. Some, when they make difficult decisions about very young children, write for the children's future selves explaining why they are doing what they are doing.
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    (Original post by Alex Fierro)
    I think it really depends on what the court is about.
    In general, we are talking about two sorts of contested case; one is the decision to take a child into care or what provision is made for the child under a care order and the other is disputes between parents as to where a child should live and the terms on which the parent with whom the child doesn't live should have contact with the child.
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    I can see why it means that the child doesn't have a voice, however speaking in court will potentially be a very stressful and overwhelming experience for a child. As will having to speak about their family in front of their family in addition to several strangers. So that process will not necessarily be a true representation of their voice either. More than anything, this shows that the court system needs updating, it needs to evolve. Rather than try and bend new ideas (like actually getting the voice of a child heard) around the stifling system, it would be better if there was a system that was more modern and flexible.


    Also, if the companies like Cafcass operated well, if they were trained in dealing with children, (children's psychology etc) and obeyed rules around only putting forward the child's exact words as evidence, then that to me seems okay? Like they could spend hours with the child, get to know her/him and make the situation as srrsss free as possible. Rather than the stressful cross examinations of court. Also, can you imagine how easy it would be to alter a kids words in court? To question him or her, and manipulate? I don't think it's a good idea at all.
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    (Original post by SophiaTome)


    Also, if the companies like Cafcass operated well, if they were trained in dealing with children, (children's psychology etc) and obeyed rules around only putting forward the child's exact words as evidence, then that to me seems okay? Like they could spend hours with the child, get to know her/him and make the situation as srrsss free as possible. Rather than the stressful cross examinations of court. Also, can you imagine how easy it would be to alter a kids words in court? To question him or her, and manipulate? I don't think it's a good idea at all.
    Cafcass is essentially a government agency. In some parts of the country the Cafcas officers/Childrens' Guardians are freelancers but most are on the books.

    The real problem is that the Cafcass Officers/Childrens Guardians are being asked for their professional opinions and one building block of that opinion is the child's views. What you therefore end up with is the child's opinion being moderated through the words of someone else who is also being asked for an opinion.

    There probably isn't enough money to have two distinct social workers involved in every case but it is important that the child's views reach the court without them being refracted by the prism of the Cafcass Officer/Children's Guardian's views. I think a lot of judges don't have confidence in that today.
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    (Original post by nulli tertius)
    Which is why Employment Tribunals are equipped with wing members
    That's a good point, but that's only in discrimination cases. In a pure unfair dismissal case, the employment judge sits alone. But I do take your point. Although presumably the ET is alone in having lay members?

    You can't ask a child to explain himself. He has to be questioned to contribute anything useful and the questioning has to be age appropriate and socially appropriate. A social worker is far better placed to do that.
    I would agree with that. Have you seen this recent case where a two-year old's evidence led to a man pleading guilty to an abuse charge?

    https://www.theguardian.com/law/2017...-uk-abuse-case

    What a number of judges do now, which I welcome, is turn adoption orders for children into a sort of welcoming ceremony. Some, when they make difficult decisions about very young children, write for the children's future selves explaining why they are doing what they are doing.
    Indeed, did you see that awesome judgment which was written in the form of a letter to the child?
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    (Original post by nulli tertius)
    In general, we are talking about two sorts of contested case; one is the decision to take a child into care or what provision is made for the child under a care order and the other is disputes between parents as to where a child should live and the terms on which the parent with whom the child doesn't live should have contact with the child.
    Well then it is very important for the kid to have a say since it is mainly about the kid themsleves.
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    (Original post by AlexanderHam)
    That's a good point, but that's only in discrimination cases. In a pure unfair dismissal case, the employment judge sits alone. But I do take your point. Although presumably the ET is alone in having lay members?
    But virtually ET cases had wing members for about 40 years. The problem eventually was that by the end the employer members weren't employers but rather HR officers from large companies and the Trade Union officials lacked experience of non-unionised workplaces, which are now the norm in the private sector.

    With the important exception of immigration and tax (which kicked out its lay members about 10 years ago), most tribunals sit with wing members. In social security cases you get doctors, people with experience of disability and accountants. Most professional disciplinary jurisdictions have customer/client members. Anything involving valuation will have surveyor members.



    I would agree with that. Have you seen this recent case where a two-year old's evidence led to a man pleading guilty to an abuse charge?


    https://www.theguardian.com/law/2017...-uk-abuse-case
    No I hadn't






    Indeed, did you see that awesome judgment which was written in the form of a letter to the child?
    Yes I did but other judges are adding in paragraphs to their judgements intended to be read in the future by the child to show that the judge was at all times thinking of the child.
 
 
 
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