wishes and feelings in relocation cases

27/09/2010 13:02

Wishes and feelings
The Family Justice Council has produced guidelines for judges meeting children [April 2010]. In short the judge's function is not to elicit evidence but to help the child feel that their views have been heard. In June 2010 the author invited the judge to see two articulate girls, aged 10 and 12, who were very keen to be heard. At that stage it seemed likely that the judge would not make an order for relocation in accordance with their expressed wishes and therefore it was desirable for that reason alone that they be listened to. The judge saw the children with a CAFCASS officer present (at short notice). The questions he proposed to put to the children were ventilated in court in advance.   A point may often be made that the child has no conception of what it would be like to be separated from his other parent and his habitual environment for more than a short time. He will usually reflect the wishes of the parent with whom he lives. It is all very well to assume that a child is resilient and will adapt readily to a change but this is speculative. When questioning a CAFCASS officer, it is important to elicit the underlying facts underpinning her opinions. Where is the evidence? How can he or she know or predict!!!  CAFCASS officers may sometimes stray beyond the area in which they are trained and take into account distorted information fed to them by one party