Children very rarely have a voice in the restructuring of their family when their parents separate. Parents always worry about their children and want to protect them but often make assumptions about how the child may be thinking or feeling and make decisions for them based upon those assumptions and more often than not make those decisions unilaterally without consultation with the other parent. This utube clip highlights the voice of the child. Helps to remove those assumptions made and if used more widely may help parents to rethink how they manage children and their ex.
Childrens Arrangement Programme introduced on the 22nd April 2014 was designed with this objective of keeping focus on the well being of the child as opposed to meeting the rights of the parent. It also introduced a new section to the Children’s Act 1989 inserting a legal acknowledgement of it being in a child’s best interests to have a relationship with both parents. There is however currently a debate as to whether or not the legal profession will play lip service to these changes or alternatively we are on the cusp of a social cultural change to the way parents manage their children on separation.
Whilst we would hope the recent changes in law will result in the latter the fear is it will be the former which will prevail. Consequently if research, statistics and Government all show that it is in a child’s best interests to maintain a positive relationship with both parents and that children do not wish to be embroiled in their parents disputes why is it family practitioners and others concerned in the management of family separation cannot embrace these changes and look to educate parents to manage their issues with the other parent in a way which does not impact upon the child. Of course there will also be those cases where court adjudication is the only way to resolve the dispute but unless the child is at risk ( and this can include emotional harm) these cases ought to fall within the minority. Family Mediators can be used to collaborate with parents and their legal representatives to facilitate such education but there needs to be emphasis on collaboration. Perhaps this approach combined with the true agenda behind the Childrens Arrangement Programme can change the way parents separate and take on board the voice of the child.