The new Family Law Act not only permits children to say which parent they wish to live with, it requires judges to take children’s views into account. Because of this every court application regarding parenting time must include evidence of the children’s views.
Children’s views can be put before the court in several ways. The most common way is to have a views of the child report prepared by an independent lawyer or a child specialist.
It’s important to remember that children’s brains are developing right up to their mid-twenties. The last brain structure to mature is the frontal lobe which controls emotions, impulses, judgement, problem solving and abstract thinking. This is seen particularly in teenage behaviours when children exhibit poor impulse control and thrill seeking, self-centeredness and moodiness.
As a result of their developing brains teenagers often cannot think critically and they are prone to the impact of parental disputes and manipulation. Their perception of one parent can be easily influenced and in the extreme can lead to alienation of one parent.
All of this needs to be taken into account when presenting the views of a child to the court. Lawyers and judges do not have the requisite training to understand that a child’s views may be the result of one parent’s influence instead of the sincere views of the child and in extreme cases child psychologists are needed to educate the judge.
Deborah A. Todd