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Family Law

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Court of Protection Practice and Procedure Conference 2016

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02 MAR 2015

Children’s voices: centre-stage or sidelined in out-of-court dispute resolution in England and Wales? [2015] CFLQ 43

Keywords: Mediation – family dispute resolution – child-inclusive – autonomy – children’s rights – children’s voices

The UK Government recently announced that children aged 10 and over should have the opportunity to be consulted on their views in both family court proceedings and family mediation. Drawing on data from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded ‘Mapping Paths to Family Justice’ project, this article examines the extent to which children’s voices are currently heard within out-of-court family dispute resolution (FDR) processes in England and Wales. The article documents practitioners’ and parties’ views and experiences of child consultation, as well as evidence of the ways in which adult disputes may become the dominant concern and children’s welfare marginalised in FDR processes. It argues that the government’s proposals would represent a significant change in current practices. To achieve such a cultural shift would require better training and accreditation for FDR professionals, adequate funding of child-inclusive mediation, reframing of children’s participation in terms of rights to have their views heard and correspondingly, modification of the central principle of party autonomy in FDR processes.

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