A recent Senate inquiry has been told the family law system must be overhauled to ensure children have a say in the decisions that affect them.
At present there is no obligation to engage children but that a Judge may choose to do so. The law these days permits the views of children to be taken into account however the level of consideration and influence those views may have over a Judge is affected by the degree of maturity the child or children are assessed as having.
It is suggested by some that children’s views rather than being a discretion should be a requirement. Under the proposal, it would be a requirement that children are given the opportunity to express their views but they would also have the right to decline.
The findings of the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse shows that “silencing kids never protects them”. Does this apply to family law? Unfortunately, children are often misinformed or “played” by their parents about spend time arrangement. Children cannot give evidence in the Family Court, so how is it that a child’s true wishes in regard to who they want to live with or the amount of time they want to spend with each parent is provided to the court?
We often hear clients tell us that their child wants to spend more time with them, but how do we know whether this is reliable?
The Courts currently may direct a counsellor to prepare a family report and children do have a chance to let the judge know their thoughts and feelings by meeting and talking to a family consultant by preparing a family report.
Family reports are commonly ordered where the age and maturity of the child suggests that he or she would be capable of articulating perceptions and wishes. These reports are highly influential for the Judge.
A child’s wishes are captured in a Family Report, which is then given to the court and relied on as to what a child wants.
We understand that children’s matters can be complex. It is important to get the right advice early and focus on what is best for the children in any given situation. If you would like to discuss your personal circumstances, please contact us on 9614 7111.