Children to have their say in family court

By Cara Houston.

MSP’s are moving on legislation to ensure children are given a say in legal proceedings when families breakdown.

This is part of the Children’s Bill in Scotland that was created to ensure children’s best interests are at the centre of every family law case and that their views are always heard.

In order for this to happen proposals are being put forward to the Scottish Government. These proposed plans will then be scrutinised by Holyrood’s Justice Committee. A public consultation is also being launched to gather more views from professionals in the field.

The changes to the bill aim to create more security and will strengthen the family law system to benefit the children’s experience with the law and court system.

Plans have also been put forward to regulate child contact centres to make sure they are safe for children to meet with family members.

The changes to the bill have also planned improvements for domestic abuse victims and their children by bringing in new video links and screens to be used in child welfare hearings. It will also prevent a party from conducting their own case if there is a vulnerable witness.

An Ayrshire based social worker explained why she thought it was important for children to be heard during legal cases. “Parents and carers can sometimes make decisions for children that are wrong and not what the child wants, which is therefore not the correct outcome for the child. Whereas if a child is able to communicate and explain what they want, it means the child has a better chance of getting the best outcome for themselves.”

Child contact centres are important for children to rebuild relationships with parents that have been destroyed, more regulations are being made to ensure child contact centres are a safe place for children. The same social worker told UWS NEWSROOM, “Sometimes the courts put in place court order contact with adults who have been involved in violent offences, therefore children need to be safe when they are having contact with these people.”

The importance of these changes being put forward are immense to create a better future for the children involved. Children being given the option to have screens and live video links in child welfare hearings is, “very important, it means they don’t feel so anxious and can tell people how they really feel about the situation,” she added when speaking to UWSNewsroom.

UWSNewsroom also spoke to a young mother from Ayrshire, she explained, “I think this new legislation is really important and will change young children’s lives who are involved in the legal process and children’s hearings. I think for someone so young it would be a really traumatic experience so to make it as stress free and easy as they possibly can for them will really benefit them and hopefully not affect them badly in their later life.”

Margaret Mitchell, committee convener told the PA that “the committee recognises this area of family law has always been contentious, with different groups having their own viewpoints.

“Balancing the rights and responsibilities of children, mothers, fathers, siblings, grandparents and wider families and step-families is difficult to get right.

“The committee will be a forum to hear those viewpoints, to consider whether the right balance has been struck in this Bill and perhaps to propose amendments.”

Margaret Mitchell also urges people to share their views, click here to find out how.  



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