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Children to Acquire Voice in Court says MOJ

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On 25th July 2014, the Ministry of Justice announced that children over 10 ought to be able to express their opinions in court about the family dispute. This change will arguably empower children. 

Family Justice Minister, Simon Hughes said:

Children and young people must by law have their views heard before decisions are made about their future, and where decisions are made that will impact them. At the moment, it is still too often that their views are not heard.

This is consistent with section 1(3) of the Children Act 1989, which states that the ascertainable wishes and feelings of a child must be considered in light his age and understanding whenever a decision is made by the courts in respect of him. The threshold set at 10 is also consistent with the age of criminal responsibility.

However, seeking to ascertain the wishes and feelings of the child as to which parent he wishes to reside with is very different to asking the views of a child as to what his views are of the dispute. Proceedings can be stressful for lay adults let alone children and most children shy away from taking sides of either parents.

Indeed, the practical value of this will have to be weighed against the delay this may cause to children act or family law proceedings. We await with anticipation as to how this change in the law will manifest in reality and whether the involvement of children will empower them or harm them, or both.

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