Will My Children Have to Give Evidence in Family Court?

Author:
Lorraine Harvey
Partner, Family Law
Date:
28/05/2021

In most cases, your children can be kept outside of Family Court proceedings entirely, even if you and your child’s other parent have to go to Court to sort out your family issues.

If you or your former partner think it would help your case for your child to give evidence, it will depend on your child’s circumstances as to whether the Court will allow this.

Before you request a Judge’s permission to bring your children into the Courtroom, you should always get legal advice from a Family Law Solicitor.

You should make any applications for your child to attend Court as early in your case as you can, and the Court could hold a Hearing to work out if your child should give evidence or not. A Judge will always consider if giving evidence in Court will damage your child’s mental wellbeing in any way or if your child will find it too frightening before allowing them to do so.

Our Family Law Solicitors can advise you on this based on your unique circumstances and we will always keep your child’s best interests at the heart of everything we do.

Get in touch for expert legal advice tailored to you and your family.

Call us on 08002605010 or request a callback and we will help you.

Can the Court ask My Child to Give Evidence?

It will only be in very exceptional circumstances that a child is asked to come to Court to present evidence, and the Court’s checklist for this depend on your child’s:

  • Wishes and feelings
  • Age
  • Level of understanding

There’s no set age at which children can give evidence in Family Court in England and Wales, or any hard and fast rules for if/when this will be needed.

Brangelina’s Five Year Custody Battle and Children in Court

In the latest headlines, Brad Pitt has been granted joint custody of his and Angelina Jolie’s children after a five-year battle in Court.

It’s been reported that Jolie’s legal team felt that the Judge ‘failed to adequately consider’ the children’s ‘input as to their experience, needs, or wishes’, which violates the United States’ legal code allowing minors aged 14-17 years old to testify.

While there are no set age limits on children submitting evidence in the Family Courts in England and Wales, it is up to the Judge working on your case if they choose not to let children testify.

And where children don’t give evidence, many parents can relate to the feeling of that their children’s wishes and feelings haven’t been properly considered in Family Court.

How to Prove Your Child’s Wishes and Feelings in Court

We know it’s difficult to show the Court how your children are feeling without them physically being there. But don’t worry, if your child arrangement issues have gone as far as Court, there are actually several ways the Judge will get to know your child’s wishes. These include:

  • Parent Evidence - The Court will listen carefully to both parents when deciding on child care arrangements. It’s important to remember that this isn’t the most reliable evidence, as your children may be saying one thing to you and another thing to their other parent, but the Court will take everything into account before it decides.
  • CAFCASS or Social Worker Reports - Normally, CAFCASS will meet your child and discuss their wishes and feelings with them. The CAFCASS Officer will then give this information to the Court as evidence to help your case.
  • Letter from your Child - CAFCASS will often collect written materials from your children, which can include a letter from your child to the Judge hearing your case.

It can be a really emotional and stressful process having to take your childcare issues to Court. But it can be reassuring to know that whether your children present evidence in Court or not, there are several processes in place to make sure that their wishes and feelings are properly considered.

You should also keep in mind that what a child wants might not be what is in their best interests, and the Court will consider this too.

If you’re experience family issues in Court and you’re worried about what the outcome will look like for your children, we can help you.

Speak to one of our Family Law Solicitors today for expert advice. We will listen to your issues and can take care of the legal side of things so you can focus on your family life and putting your children first.

For initial legal advice call our Family Law and Divorce Solicitors

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