Where there are children involved in a divorce, the law is very clear – the needs of the child come first.
However, as with all legal situations, every case is different and there are nuances and things can change as a child grows up and matures.
A common question we are asked in sutuations where, for whatrever reason, there has been a particularly fractious divorce, where one parent has not beeen able to have as much contact with children as he/she would have wanted, and the child or children were young when the divorce took place, is at what age the child’s wishes will be taken into account ?
This can of course also work both ways. As a child matures he or she may decide that, notwithstanding any court order or agreement between parents, the child wants to see less of the parent he or she does not live with. In some cases, the child may want to see more of the parent.
There are no hard and fast legal rules about the age at which a child’s views are taken into account, but in my experience, as rule of thumb, this tends to be at about 13 years old.
The above is supported by a recent case where a 13 year old child wanted to spend more time with her father. In this sad case, the mother had disputed the wishes of the father to spend more time with his daughter for some years, largely on the basis that she considered he was in some way unnaturally too loving of his daughter.
Notwithstanding that there will inevitably come a time when a child’s voice will be heard, there are regrettably some cases where even where that happens and a court makes or varies an existing contact order so that a child will see a parent even where the other parent vehemently objects, in reality this do0esn’t always happen.
There have been many well publicised instances, including as reported here recently, where the parent with day to day custody will simply not allow contact, even in defiance of court orders. This presents the court with a major dilemma. Whilst civil law do9es include situations where there can be criminal sanctions and even imprisonment based on perjury or contempt of court, in reality, the instances where these orders are applied is quite rare. This is especially the case where imprisoning a parent would, of itself, create significant consequences for the child. There has been a recent trend towards more action being taken for contempt of court, including in divorce and family law matters, so perhaps the courts have decided that enough is enough, as otherwise, the civil law may be seen as something for optional compliance only, especially where a costs order doesn’t impact on the party in defiance.
For advice on divorce, family law or child contact issues, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me.
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