During Family Law meetings with clients we often have parents asking whether the Family Court will take into consideration what their child wants.
This is an important question as children are not able to give evidence in family law disputes. There are parts of the Family Law Act, however, that requires that the Court must take into account the child’s wishes and any factors such as the child’s level of maturity and their understanding of what is happening.
How does the Family Court find out what the wishes of a child are?
There are various means available to the Court.
- An Independent Children’s Lawyer
There is provision in the Family Law Act that enables the Court to appoint an Independent Children’s Lawyer. This is a lawyer who acts independently from the other parties to a matter and whose role it is to represent your child and their interests.
- “Wishes” Report
The Court can order that a ‘Wishes Report’ be prepared. A wishes report could be described as a psycho-social assessment of a child, generally by a psychologist or child specialist.
The report will be based on an interview or interviews and present the child’s views and experiences, as well as observations and analysis of the child’s views and behaviour in the context of the parenting matter being considered.
- Child-Inclusive Conference
The Court can order that the parties attend a Child Inclusive Conference (CIC). Particularly when older children are involved the Family Court may order a CIC to enable the child’s wishes to be known.
A CIC includes a Court appointed officer, parents or other relevant care givers, and the child or children involved.
- Family Report or Memorandum
In some circumstances the Court may order that the parties attend a Family Consultant. This Consultant will interview each party, sometimes with the child or children in question, and prepare a memorandum with respect to their observations and findings.
The Family Consultant would prepare a report to assist the Court. In preparing such a report the Family Consultant is required to find out the views of the child in relation to that matter; and include the views of the child in the report.
The findings or reports produced through any of the above processes are not binding on the Court but can be relied upon in reaching any determination.
If you wish to discuss your family law matter with an experienced solicitor contact Dawson & Gardiner. Phone: 02 4954 8666.