Can my children tell the court what they want in regard to parenting issues?
Your children will not be required to express their views about who they wish to live with, how much time they wish to spend with each parent or other parenting matters that are being decided by the court. However, the court must listen to the children's views if they choose to express them to the court.
How can my children tell the court their views?
In the Family Court of WA children cannot talk directly to the court. The court will accept a report on their views from the family consultant. For more information on family consultants, see How does the Family Court deal with a children’s case.
If there is an independent children’s lawyer (ICL) in your case, the court will listen to what the lawyer has to say about the children's views. The ICL may also arrange for an independent expert to speak to the children and report on their views. The court will take into account any written report from the independent expert. For more information see Independent children’s lawyer (ICL) in the Family Court and Independent expert in the family court – children’s matters.
Will my children's views count in my court case?
Any views expressed by the children to the court through the independent children’s lawyer or reports from the family consultant or independent expert may influence the court's decision on parenting issues, but do not dictate what the court decides. The court takes into account the children’s views as one of several factors the court must take into account when determining what is in the Best interests of the child. How much weight the court places on a child’s views will depend on the child’s age and how mature they are.
How old do my children have to be before the court will go along with their views?
There is nothing in the law that says that once a child reaches a particular age the court will go along with their views. The court looks at what is in the best interests of each individual child. How much weight the court will give to the views of a child will depend on the child’s maturity and what has influenced their views.
I am concerned the other parent may try to influence our child’s views. What can I do?
The court, independent children’s lawyers, family consultants and independent experts are all aware of issues such as “coaching”, where one or both parents may have tried to influence what their children say about their living arrangements and other issues. The court does not approve of parents attempting to influence their children’s views or telling children what to say when asked about their parents or their living arrangements, as this can have a negative impact on children. If you think the other parent has been trying to influence what your children say, get legal advice.
Where can I get more information?
Go to the Best for Kids films on the Legal Aid NSW website. There are two short films about the Independent Children's Lawyer role. One film provides information for parents and one film is designed for use with children. Please note, that while these films are from the Legal Aid NSW website the content is correct for Western Australian audiences.
Last reviewed: 16/02/2015