Children To Have Their Say On Family Courts
Children will have their say on plans to make family courts more responsive to their needs, Harriet Harman, minister for family justice, has announced. The government is asking young people whether judges should ask their views and tell them courts’ decisions and whether they should have their own legal representation in divorce cases. The Department for Constitutional Affairs is also considering whether individuals should be able to request full information on why courts reached particular custody arrangements or authorised their adoption once they reach adulthood.
Ms Harman said children would be able to give their views at an online discussion forum – www.ofcf.net – as part of the wider consultation on the proposals.
“The courts are supposed to focus on the welfare of the child, whose interests should be paramount. But nobody talks to the children – the judge doesn’t tell them what is going on and they are left in the dark,” she said.
“A child’s life can be irrevocably affected by a decision of the family courts and I want their opinions to be fully considered as we develop plans to improve the family courts. The internet allows young people to tell us what they think safely, anonymously.”
In research by Cardiff University Law School for the DCA, children expressed frustration that judges were able to make decisions about their future without consulting them.
They will be able to give their views anonymously on the site and their comments will be moderated to ensure that no information which could identify them appears.