Wishes and Feelings Reports – an abnegation of responsibility?

The Children Act 1989 indicates that, when deciding what do to about a child’s contact with an absent parent, we should look at the child’s wishes and feelings:

“Section 1 (3)
In the circumstances mentioned in subsection (4), a court shall have regard in particular to—
the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his age and understanding);”

So, yes, we should look at what the child wants.  Mrs Justice Parker has already pointed out the sharp distinction, though, between what a child says he wants, and what he actually wants, highlighting the fact that the Act asks about the child’s ascertainable wishes, not his expressed wishes.

But – even here, we need to pause.  Why are we taking a child’s wishes into account at all?

Brian O’Sullivan refers to Linda Gottleib’s work on this, commenting

“Gottleib argues that there is logic for not allowing children to engage in certain activities, such as voting, smoking, drinking alcohol or serving in the army.  She asks “How is it then that we so freely abrogate our professional and parental decision-making responsibility to a child in such a critical area as family relationships, specifically the relationship with a non-resident parent”

Additionally, says O’Sullivan

“Fidler et al …advocate caution regarding the power of the voice of the child…They found that many adults who rejected a parent…secretly wished…that someone had recognised they did not mean what they said when they were rejecting that parent”

He points out that

“It is more than inappropriate to place a child in the position of having to choose a parent”

(O’Sullivan, Context Magazine · July 2018)

Asking a child to choose a parent is giving the child inappropriate empowerment.  It puts the child in an impossible position.  It is cowardly.

Do we ask children their wishes and feelings about going to school, or the dentist, or doing their homework?

Wishes and Feelings reports are a gross abnegation of our parental and societal responsibility.

 

 

4 thoughts on “Wishes and Feelings Reports – an abnegation of responsibility?

  1. Linda Gottlieb says it perfectly.
    “there is logic for not allowing children to engage in certain activities, such as voting, smoking, drinking alcohol or serving in the army. “How is it then that we so freely abrogate our professional and parental decision-making responsibility to a child in such a critical area as family relationships”.
    A kid in high conflict divorce is in “SURVIVAL MODE”, he/she will do whatever it takes to avoid the pain he/she goes thru when the parents fight or when the one parent is pressing him/her to take their side. The child cannot withstand the pressure, so he/she joins in.
    How is it that no one sees that? The voice of the child cannot be used to determine the fate of any child, without first investigating thoroughly this child’s and his/her parent’s lives.
    There are a lot of little secrets a child will keep, because he is scared, or he has been threatened, or simply because he has been programmed, subtlety, little by little, by a parent or caregiver to believe he cannot speak or he must lie.

     
    1. I am pretty sure Aymara that everyone sees it. The unpleasant truth is that it is acted on only when the court’s judgement is public – and the problem is that most family courts do not publish judgements – it’s only the superior courts. It’s no surprise that the degree of justice experienced is directly proportional to the level of transparency – a major problem – take a look at The Transparency Project.

      You have highlighted precisely the kind of coercion that these kids have to put up with – intimidation and abuse that the courts and social workers ignore. If no effective action is taken, we have to keep going back to court time and again, enriching lawyers and paying more court fees (from which the State makes a tidy profit).

      Thank you for your insightful comments.

       
  2. This is spot on accurate. My twins (8 years old when alienation started, 10 next month) haven’t developed mentally, or emotionally to decifer the enigma we are all involved in. If I don’t pay child support for a year- I’m arrested: if I’m denied my parenting time for a year, and 3 judge’s court orders say to do so, I have to pay a parenting coordinator more money to get my rights enforced. Absurd and cruel.

     
    1. Yes! I watched a video recently that argued that the family court system is not broken – it was designed this way. Only 1.2% of all court orders are enforced.

       

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