When it comes to parenting matters, I regularly have client’s come to me and say “will the Court care about what my child thinks?” and “do they get a say in what happens?”.
There are a number of vehicles and processes in the family law litigation and dispute resolution landscape that identify your child’s interests and that let your child’s voice be heard.
A child’s expressed wishes will always be considered by the court. The weight the court will give to those expressed wishes may vary from case to case and the age and maturity of the child. On the other hand, a court will not force a child to express a wish in a family law dispute.
The Independent Children’s Lawyer
Section 68L of the Family Law Act 1975 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.
The Court can order that the parties attend a Child Inclusive Conference (“CIC”). Generally, but not always, the Court will order a CIC when parenting matters involve older children.
A CIC includes a court appointed officer, parents or other relevant care givers, and the child or children who are the subject of the proceedings.
The Court can order that a ‘wishes report’ be prepared. A wishes report can in general terms 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 at hand.
Section 11F of the Family Law Act 1975 enables the Court to order that the parties attend upon a Family Consultant. This Consultant will interview each party, sometimes with the child or children in question, and prepare a report with respect to their observations and findings.
The findings or reports produced through any of the above processes are not binding on the Court but can be relied upon by the Court in reaching any determination.
If you wish to discuss your family law matter, you can contact one of our other experienced family law team.