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Your shout too! Children's views of the arrangements made and services provided when courts adjudicate in private law disputes

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Government reports and research studies from several countries, going back over several years, have highlighted the harm suffered by children caught up in their parents' conflict about where they should live and who they should see. This article adds to the still-small body of research presenting children's views about the sources of support available to them around the time of court hearings and subsequently. A questionnaire was sent, via the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) and through their resident parent, to the majority of children in England aged 10 or over about whom a court welfare report had been written during a six-month period. Responses were received from 141 children and demographic data are provided on these respondents. More of the respondents expressed broad satisfaction with their residence arrangements than was the case for contact arrangements. Whilst more than half of the respondents were broadly satisfied with the services they had received, others evidenced very real causes for complaint. Others valued the service provided but considered it to be ‘too little, too late’. For an important minority, the complexity of their situations and the deep-seated problems of one or both parents made it very difficult for even the most skilled and sensitive professionals to arrive at a conclusion that met the child's needs and accorded with their wishes. The findings support those from studies focusing on the views of parents as well as children, which show that, whilst a skilled court welfare service continues to be essential for a minority of the most vulnerable children trapped in these conflictual situations, it is essential that such children be considered as ‘children in need’ who can benefit from the family support services available to all vulnerable children.
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Keywords: Cafcass; children; court welfare work; divorce; family courts; parental conflict; social work; violence

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Social Work and Psychology, University of East Anglia, UK 2: Centre for the Study of the Child, the Family and the Law, University of Liverpool, UK

Publication date: 2011-06-01

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