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Children in the Family Court: Whose Best Interests? (From National Conference on Child Abuse, P 83-98, 1987, Ron Snashall, ed. -- See NCJ-106579)

NCJ Number
M Rayner; S Beasley
Date Published
16 pages
Current Australian court proceedings involving children do not clearly define the best interests of the child, distinguish those interests from the interests of parents and other adults, or make clear who is to speak for the interests of the child.
Parents cannot assess their children's best needs objectively when their own needs have not been met. Historical factors have also produced various services and occupations, all claiming to represent the best interests of children. However, their communications and recommendations are often influenced by their desire to protect their special positions and knowledge. Family courts are governed by the Family Law Act. Although they emphasize conciliation among parents, they usually rely on adversarial procedures. The parents or their lawyers usually present the facts regarding the children's welfare. Mechanisms exist for determining the child's wishes or obtaining independent evidence about the child, but the court usually does not directly seek to learn the child's views. Many problems exist in the use of separate representatives for children or in independent efforts to obtain evidence from them. Further research is needed on these issues. Also needed are criteria for determining when to appoint separate representatives for children, procedures to keep interviews of children to a minimum, written guidelines about the responsibilities of independent representatives, and added training for lawyers who represent children. 1 figure.


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