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Entries in New Zealand (1)


How Best to Find out What a Child Really Needs and Wants

In preparing for our submission to the forthcoming Children's Rights Bill, FNF Scotland is taking a look at what happens elsewhere in the world.

Peter Boshier, the principal family court judge in New Zealand, laid out his views recently on how children should be involved in family court cases concerning contact. 

His article, first published in the newsletter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, emphasises that child custody cases are very different from other court cases and require a unique approach.

He sets out to consider how decisions can be made having regard to what children need and not simply what their parents want.

The first and most important point he makes is very relevant to the experience of Families Need Fathers Scotland:

"... resolution of issues for children does not benefit from delay. Cases take on a life of their own and status quo situations are often difficult to dislodge, even if this is grossly unfair to the children or one of the parties."

He goes on to mention the difficulties caused when parents present opposing views as to what arrangements should be made for the children, pointing out that:

"unless early intervention occurs, the perceived needs of a child become the issues as framed by the parents and, as bitterness settles in, the children’s needs and welfare interests become submerged in the parents’ perceptions... unless there is judicial intervention at an early stage, it becomes increasingly difficult to shift parental attitudes."

He concludes that the needs and welfare of children should be considered and reported on by a suitably qualified expert, who sees the children away from the influence of either parent and is able to put fairly and firmly to the court what that child wants.  In cases where children have been alienated or coached the courts must be alive to the possibility that what the child is saying is not really the child's properly held view.

Comments from anyone with direct experience of how the New Zealand system works would be very welcome - contact scotland@fnf.org.uk.