Guidance on explaining family court decisions to children published by Welsh Government

Guidance on explaining family court decisions to children published by Welsh Government

The Welsh Government and Cafcass Cymru have published guidance to help support parents and other carers when they are explaining decisions made in the Family Court to children.

The Guidance, published last week (22 April), begins by highlighting the importance of children understanding decisions made by the court.

It states: “If children aren’t told what has been decided and why, they will often come up with their own explanations. These explanations can be untrue and sometimes really upsetting or worrying.

“Talking to children about the decisions that have been made can help them understand what is going on and reduce their confusion and distress.”

The guidance shares tips for parents and carers on deciding when and where to talk about the final decision, how to start the conversation, and explaining things in a way that work for children.

The guidance encourages parents to help their child see what the court order will mean for their day-to-day life, for instance, letting them know which days of the week they will spend with mum / dad.

It notes: “Looking at or colouring in a calendar might help your child to understand a new arrangement.”

It reminds parents to discuss the parts of their child’s life that will be most affected – such as whether they will go to the same school, where they will be sleeping and whether they will still be able to see friends and other family members.

The guidance recommends using language that focusses on agreement, for reassurance. It says: “If a judge or magistrate made the decision because it wasn’t possible to reach an agreement, you could still focus on the things you did agree on. You could say something like:

Dad and I both want what’s best for you. We found it hard to work out just what would work best so we agreed the judge would have to help us by making a decision.

The handbook cautions parents against sharing negative views or feelings about a final decision, which is likely to be worrying or confusing for a child. It says: “Even if you are feeling disappointed with the judge’s decision, it is important to let your child know that you accept what the judge has decided for now.”

The guidance concludes with a list of available resources to offer additional support for children, including Young Minds and Kooth.

A Welsh Government Spokesperson said: “Research published by the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory and Welsh Government shows it’s important that children understand what has been decided in the family court, but that this does not always happen. Sometimes the Cafcass Cymru officer will meet children to explain what the court decided, but they are often not involved at the point that decisions are made. And although parents or carers are usually the best person to explain things to their child, they can find it hard to know what to say.  

“This new guide has been developed by children and young people, parents, carers and professionals who work with children, as part of Pathfinder. Pathfinder is a new way of the family courts working with families who are struggling to agree arrangements for the care of their children, focussed on better experiences and outcomes for children and families in private family law proceedings. Following the success of Pathfinder in North Wales and Dorset, Pathfinder is now expanding to South East Wales and Birmingham.”

Lottie Winson

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Team @ AberdareOnline

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