Andrew Stout, Family lawyer at Tallents Solicitors, Newark, Southwell and MansfieldIn February 2015, the Justice Minister Simon Hughes announced that children will now have a greater say in family court cases, including decisions to take them into care or child arrangements following separation or divorce. Andrew Stout, family lawyer and partner at Tallents Solicitors in Newark, looks at this in more detail. Andrew says:

“This announcement means that children from the age of 10 will be able to express their views in legal cases which directly affect them.

“This could include children attending meetings, writing letters and drawing pictures for the court or communicating via a third party, in addition to their Children and Families Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass) officer or social worker.”

The Voice of the Child to be heard
The government believes that the Voice of the Child should be heard when legal decisions are made about them and their future and also wants out of court dispute resolution services, such as family mediation, to include children where possible. Resolution for family law by Tallents Solicitors in Newark, Southwell and MansfieldThe family law organisation Resolution, welcomed the announcement as their recent survey of young people, whose parents have gone through divorce, showed that many teens and young adults felt that their parents placed additional stresses on them during the process of break up. Almost a third (32%) said that one parent tried to turn them against the other during divorce, while over a quarter (27%) said that ‘my parents tried to involve me in their dispute’. Andrew continues:

“Emotions will always run high in the middle of a separation or divorce, or if care proceedings have been initiated, and as experienced family lawyers and mediators, part of our professional role is to ensure that everyone’s wellbeing is taken into account during these stressful times.

“We understand that parents will always have their children’s material wellbeing in mind but these new proposals will also ensure that the Voice of the Child is heard loud and clear by all parties.”

Andrew finishes:

“To ensure a child’s emotional wellbeing is looked after during a dispute, we would always encourage parents to speak to a family lawyer with experience in children law, such as ourselves at Tallents Solicitors, or by visiting the Law Society’s Children Law website and reviewing the current members of the Children Law Accreditation Scheme.”