An interesting article by District Judge Crichton (Inner London FPC, champion of the Drug & Alcohol Court Pilot) about enhancing the participation of children in Family Proceedings. He suggests that children of an appropriate age should be routinely asked by CAFCASS about the possibility of meeting the judge and that judges should not be reluctant to meet them in chambers or in the courtroom, in the presence of the CAFCASS Officer, child’s solicitor or court associate / legal advisor. He suggests good practice is that an agreed note of what was said can then be shared with the parties.
In my experience a child attending court is comparatively unusual let alone meeting with the judge in their case. That is not to say that it should not be considered more often – many children clearly feel disempowered and frustrated or confused that they have no say decisions that affect them. It is a delicate balance between empowering children without burdening them with the responsibility for making a decision or expressing a preference between parents which can be excruciating for children.
The article can be found in the Hilary Term issue (#39) of The Barrister magazine.