Children and the Law
The Children and the Law project was initiated as a Childwatch Thematic Group in 2006. In 2007 a project was undertaken to investigate how children’s rights are respected in the law across countries with Childwatch Key Institutions. In 2009 the focus turned to look more specifically at children’s participation in family law by exploring the models of participation (formal and informal) related to family- and court-based decision-making processes over children’s post-separation care arrangements.
Children as Participants in Family Law Decision Making: International and Comparative Perspectives
The Childwatch International Thematic Group on Children and the Law has been established to explore how children’s rights are respected in law across different countries. In 2005, the Study Group identified children’s participation rights in family law systems as an internationally relevant area of children’s rights that requires further critical examination. In Phase One of the project, a questionnaire on children’s participation in family law proceedings was distributed to all Childwatch Key Institutions which resulted in a research report being produced in 2007. A first meeting of the study group was then held in Prague in September 2008. At this meeting, it was agreed to focus Phase Two of the study on a comparative international study of the models of children’s participation in family law processes related to post-separation care arrangements. In May 2009 a questionnaire was distributed throughout the Childwatch Network to invite participation from interested Key Institutions and collect information on the way children participate in private family law proceedings in their state/country. The findings from this survey were written up in a research report published in November 2009.
To read more about the background for the survey, read the Children's Participation in Family Law Proceedings - Research Report from 2007.
Key Findings from the 14 countries who responded to the 2009 Survey
- Countries with predominantly common law systems: Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, NZ, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Scotland, South Africa, USA
- Countries with predominantly civil, religious or customary law systems: Costa Rica, India, Israel, Japan
Family law is recognised as requiring specialist jurisdictions internationally; Children’s participation in family law decision-making varies considerably across jurisdictions;
Nearly all countries have legislative provisions for children’s participation in adversarial matters (these are proposed for India) – but children only ‘occasionally’ participate in half the countries and ‘often’ in other half; A lawyer can be appointed for the child in most countries except Costa Rica & Japan; Children occasionally meet with judges in the majority of countries (always in Nigeria);
All countries have legislative provisions for children’s participation in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) processes; Most report their legal system is moving towards greater recognition of child participation rights.
Publications and Conference Presentations
Taylor, N.J., & Gollop, M. (2007, May). Children’s participation in family law proceedings. Research Report for the Childwatch International Children and the Law Study Group. Dunedin: University of Otago Children’s Issues Centre.
Newell, S., Graham, A., & Fitzgerald, R. (2009, November). Results of an International Survey Regarding Children’s Participation in Decision-Making Following Parental Separation (Report to the Childwatch International Research Network’s Children and the Law Thematic Study Group). Australia: Centre for Children and Young People, Southern Cross University.
Taylor, N.J. (2010). Child-inclusive models of practice in family law proceedings. Paper presented at the Interdisciplinary Colloquium on Current Legal Studies: Law and Childhood Studies, 5/6 July, Faculty of Laws, University College London. [This paper is currently being written up by Nicola and Dr Robyn Fitzgerald for publication in Current Legal Studies, Volume 14, ‘Law and Childhood Studies’ edited by Michael Freeman and published by Oxford University Press. It is anticipated that a subsequent paper, co-authored by all the group members, will also be submitted to the International Journal of Children’s Rights].
Click on the links to learn more about the survey findings:
- The Children's Participation in Family Law Proceedings - Research Report from May 2007;
- Results of an International Survey Regarding Children’s Participation in Decision-Making Following Parental separation from November 2009.
Dr Nicola Taylor, Centre for Research on Children and Families (CRCF), University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand. nicola.taylor (at) otago.ac.nz
List of Participants
• Nicola Taylor, Centre for Research on Children and Families, University of Otago, New Zealand
• Robyn Fitzgerald and Anne Graham, Southern Cross University, Lismore, Australia
• Asha Bajpaj, TATA Institute of Social Science, Mumbai, India
• Tamar Morag, Colman Institute, Jerusalem, Israel
• Lenka Sulova, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic
Resources on Children and the Law