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When should a child's wishes be taken into consideration re contact?

(20 Posts)
dingleberryd Thu 22-Feb-18 13:35:55

What is an appropriate age for a child to have a say in their contact schedule with their parents? When can they decide what is their 'best interests'?

Does anyone know what a court's or mediators view on this is? Not necessarily what age a child should be to attend mediation - but supposing a child who was too young to attend mediation alone (say, 7-10 yrs) has views on where he or she would like to spend certain weekends/holidays/etc that they could express, to what extent might this be taken into consideration? (assuming of course no abuse from either parent).

Points of view and/or personal experience?
Thank you.

wobytide Thu 22-Feb-18 13:39:41

If there is no abuse or safeguarding issues and the child is as young as you say why wouldn't both parents be making a more meaningful attempt to maintain contact with the other parent for the child?

TJ2503 Thu 22-Feb-18 13:48:03

Interestingly I had a conversation today with my solicitor about this.

DS1 is almost 6 and I questioned if his views and thoughts would be considered if I ended up in court with EXH. She said whilst he is too young to be asked directly about the situation CAFCASS may well use age appropriate methods (e.g pictures, drawing, stories etc) to gauge whether it would be beneficial and appropriate to DS1 to try and rebuild the relationship.

dingleberryd Thu 22-Feb-18 13:49:24

Why indeed! If separated parents could always see eye-to-eye with regards to a child's best interests, the world would be a happier place, I agree. In this case, there is contact with both parents, but the dispute is over how much and when.

dingleberryd Thu 22-Feb-18 13:51:21

@TJ2503 thank you for this info - is there currently contact in your situation?

HatsontheWardrobe Thu 22-Feb-18 13:51:33

Like TJ has said, in my experience, even very young children have been interviewed by CAFCASS in an age appropriate way for quite some time.

Ten years ago, my 5 yr old DSS was seen by CAFCASS and the report to the court included reference to their interpretation of that.

ReinettePompadour Thu 22-Feb-18 13:56:04

My SS was able explain how he felt and why at around 8 years old.

We allowed him to say why he didnt want contact with his dm and as long as it was a genuine reason and not because he wanted to play on his computer or with his friends etc then we would have a discussion with a view to finding a compromise.

Its vital the dc understand what it is theyre saying. There has to be some sort of context to their statements. Its not good enough to just say 'I dont want to go' without any explanation as to how theyve come to that opinion.

If they can express a genuine reason then it should be listened to. You shouldnt just dismiss their concerns based on their age unless theres a specific reason why they couldnt understand the situation. However I would say discussing the choices available to them is essential. I found dss always felt happier if we considered his thoughts. We tried the common approach of he is too young to understand so we make the choice for him but it didnt go down well with awful tantrums and screaming for many hours and completely ignoring us for days on his return.

TJ2503 Thu 22-Feb-18 14:00:09

No contact currently and EXH has been absent for a while from DS1, but he has reappeared and is demanding access etc.

dingleberryd Thu 22-Feb-18 14:16:36

Thanks everyone for the input

@TJ2503 that sounds tough - wishing you all the best

NameWithChange Thu 22-Feb-18 16:05:21

My barrister and lawyer told me that my 12 yo would have their feelings taken into account. I wanted the access to remain as it was - twice a week - good routine for my anxious DCs and it was already established. I was told by all it would be respected because it was already happening and DS wanted and needed that routine.

The judges completely ignored those facts and ordered every other weekend and 2 nights every other week. My DS refused to go on that basis and hasn't been since despite me attempting to persuade him - it's been over a year now.

I lost my faith in the Court system.

prh47bridge Thu 22-Feb-18 18:20:51

Your 12 year old's wishes and feeling would have been taken into account. That is not the same as saying their wishes and feelings determine the outcome. The amount of weight given to the child's wishes and feelings depends on their level of understanding. If the court thinks the child is being influenced by the parent with care their views will carry less weight.

I am surprised anyone told you that the courts would stick to such a low level of contact.

MrsBertBibby Thu 22-Feb-18 18:27:32

What Bridge said.

Taking into account wishes and feelings really isn't the same as "doing what the child said". It is a much more subtle exercise than that.

NameWithChange Thu 22-Feb-18 20:41:34

It wasn't a low level of contact, it was 2 nights a week (and half of holidays) - which is the same as they ordered but they juggled them all about. They didn't take into account various factors as to why it was in his best interests. There was no reason why my ex couldn't continue with the arrangement, even while the dust settled, he just didn't want to. I had no preference - it made no difference to me. Other than I knew such varied change in his routine would cause him problems - backed up by medical information.

The Court order had a direct result that he will not go there at all. He was very upset that his feelings weren't accounted for and his anxiety at all the proposed changes went sky high. He barely leaves the house and school was effected. He was confused that my ex - with his 13 different proposals - one of which was tea every other Tuesday after school and then returned straight home (that was it !) wasn't seen for what he was which was just disruptive, difficult, controlling and showing no consideration whatsoever for what was in the best interests of the children.

I can only speak from my own experience. Thankfully things are much better now as there is a lot less stress to deal with and we have continued professional help to manage the emotional fallout.

wobytide Fri 23-Feb-18 00:02:26

2 nights a week isn't the same as 2nights every other week and every other weekend

If you think a night provides contact on parity with a weekend day then no wonder the judges ruled against you. Sad that your child has anxiety about it all but sad that your ex has someone blocking their relationship.

BubblesBuddy Fri 23-Feb-18 00:45:40

Sticking rigidly to an arrangement and making sure your child agrees is also not acceptable. The court tries to see both sides. Not just one side. I would have thought the angst the child has about contact comes from your views about your Ex. That’s a fairly normal situation for courts to deal with. It’s sad it gets to this state.

NameWithChange Fri 23-Feb-18 01:08:24

@wobytide You don't know what you are talking about. One of the nights they were seeing him was a Saturday night which meant they could have all day Saturday and Sunday every weekend If he/they wanted as well as a weekday night. I've never blocked anything and I never said anything about the dates being set in stone. My feelings towards him now are as a result of what he dragged myself and my children and the rest of my family through via Court and the bare faced lies he told in Court.

NameWithChange Fri 23-Feb-18 01:11:49

It is extremely sad it gets to that state. I completely agree with that.

NameWithChange Fri 23-Feb-18 01:45:24

I don't want to get into an argument about my personal circumstances or have to defend/explain myself, so I will bow out of this now.

The point I was trying to make for the OP (perhaps I wasn't being clear enough) was that despite conversations with CAFCASS, recommendations from schools, mental health professionals and an existing arrangement agreed with my XH via mediation taking into account all factors, I was advised that the Court would very likely agree to keep to current arrangements for the benefit of the children for the time being. Personally the days didn't matter to me - and XH had been happy so there was no issue. Once we were in Court there were numerous ridiculous proposals put forward by my XH as previously mentioned (I didn't change mine at all) and the Court took the view they would just apply the standard every other weekend and 2 weekday nights every other week. I tried everything to make it work regardless, explaining to my DS that we were all going for a middle ground, it was for the best, every positive I could throw at it I did. Many times. It didn't work. But if you want to imply that I was 'sticking rigidly to an arrangement' for my own benefit or have been involved in 'blocking their relationship' you carry on. It's not true in any way though.

dingleberryd Fri 23-Feb-18 12:16:43

@NameWithChange - thank you for your input, it was really insightful and much appreciated. I'm sorry you had to go through all that - it sounds like a nightmare.

NameWithChange Fri 23-Feb-18 12:23:33

You're welcome. I hope yours all goes well. I just wanted to warn that sometimes GP/CAFCASS/Lawyers/Mediators etc can be tossed aside and 'the norm' just applied. Particularly if you have an Ex who wants to make things as hard as possible and use a smoke and mirrors technique to hide his own failings.

I hope you can reach an agreement that everyone is happy with, without the need for Court and the extra strain of £1000s down the drain as well!

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