Friday, February 3, 2012

Judges and children: When the twain should (must?) meet

I discovered this interesting blog article on the Family Law group at

Family Law Blog: Judges and children – AJ v. JJ and others [2011] E...: It sounds like a definition of people you should never work with. Animals are less of a problem! Actually, I raise this as a topic beca...

An English appellate court said that a family court judge should have met with the children to explain to them why he was sending them back to Poland to be with their father who had custody, over their reportedly vigorous objection.

The blog author seems to agree with the system there, similar to ours, that parents are discouraged from bringing their children to court and that children's voices are heard through a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL). The reported decision said it was the judge's responsibility to avoid the scenario of screaming, kicking children being dragged onto a plane by explaining the process to them.

Many parents and children believe that children's voices are not adequately heard or are inaccurately reported through the GAL system and argue that children should have the opportunity to directly communicate with the decision maker, either as witnesses or parties with standing to have their positions count. Is it for the best? Are there other options?


Jonathan James | Associate Solicitor said...

The problem with routinely seeking a child's direct input us that the temptation for singer parents to manipulate that would be irresistible. If both parents were to engage in campaigns to bring the cold over to "their" side, the damage to the cold would be incalculable.

While there are certainly disadvantages, I think approaching a child directly only in exceptional cases is the best compromise to protect him/ her from irresponsible parents, of whom, sadly, there seem to be plenty.

Anonymous said...

It feels like a violation of free speech and the human right of self determination for a child of a certain age and maturity to be barred from being able to speak to a judge directly.