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Whilst children's welfare and wishes and feelings should be at the centre of court decision-making, in practice most children do not participate directly in decision-making processes in child contact cases. In this article we use conversation analysis to examine whether and how the needs and rights of these 'absent' children are invoked by parents and professionals in negotiations. Our analysis reveals that the needs and wishes of these children are regularly invoked by adults, but as a strategic and contingent argumentative resource, rather than as the starting point for the decision-making process.
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