An Australian Institute of Family Studies report has found children want to be better heard by family law professionals in custody matters.
An Australian Institute of Family Studies report has found children want to be better heard by family law professionals in custody matters.

Children want say in custody battles

MOST children in separated families want to have a say on where they live, a new Australian Institute of Family Studies report out today shows.

The qualitative study Children and Young People in Separated Families found three-quarters of the children in the research said that they wanted their parents to listen more to their

views when they were deciding on parenting arrangements and most wanted to be better heard by family law professionals, especially in matters of their own safety.

The research comes after The Courier-Mail reported the State Government's Family and Child Commission wants kids to be heard in court and Family Court judges to give more focus to "protecting children from harm" in custody rulings.

Some of the 61 study participants, aged 10 to 17, said they were distressed by the perceived inaction on the part of family law system professionals, particularly in response to safety concerns.

"These children often felt they were kept in the dark and were unsure and unclear about what was happening about decisions affecting their lives," institute director Anne Hollonds said.

Senior research fellow Rachel Carson said a key theme emerging from the kids' interviews was the significance of having someone to listen to them and then communicate their views so that their views could inform decision making.

"Some children and young people described their direct engagement with service providers, including counsellors, family consultants/family report writers and independent children's lawyers (ICL) in positive terms," Dr Carson said.

"However most of the study participants who could recall engaging with family law system professionals expressed negative views of the process and their engagement (or lack of engagement) with these professionals.

"Some of these young participants described the legal process as focusing more on what their parents wanted, particularly where they had limited or no interaction with these service providers."

The study findings will be presented to the 15th Australian Institute of Family Studies conference next week.



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