Children meeting judges

CAFCASS worked with the Family Justice Young People's Board to develop and deliver training in 2014 on children meeting judges. The aim of children meeting with judges is to try and ensure that:

  • They have the opportunity to meet with the person who is making the final and life changing decisions about their lives.
  • They can feel more respected and listened to.
  • It can result in them having a better understanding of their family situation and why certain decisions had to be made to keep them safe.

The Family Justice Young People's Board (FJYPB) played a key role in developing the training and materials to support this work. The FJYPB is a England wide group of young people, aged 8 and over, who have had direct experience of family breakdown and had to go through either public or private law court proceedings.

The training highlighted common concerns that children and young people may have about the court system.

  • Out of loyalty to one parent, the other, or both – the children may not be as forthright and honest about what the judge is trying to discern; 
  • The child or young person may feel nervous or even frightened;
  • The court may feel like an alien environment to them;
  • They might not understand what the judge is saying or asking.

The training drew on real experiences of children and young people:

"I knew that he was the important person in all of this, and was so excited that I would be able to express myself to the person who would be making a huge decision in my life. It was a half an hour meeting in the court room, he asked few questions but really allowed me to say what I needed too. Coming out of it, I felt a huge sense of release, as if that one person really understood me and where I was coming from"

"I really wanted to meet the Judge, to tell him what it has been like for me during this time. I was told by the Cafcass officer that she would ask the Judge, she later told me that the judge didn't want to see me but ‘don’t worry I will give him a paper with what you want to say’, I feel that I never told the Judge really how I felt. I wanted to go in because I do understand and I do want them to realise how I felt being separated from *****"

The training introduced judges to how and when to meet with children and young people in the legal process. The training also introduced a range of resource to support judges and young people to get the most out of meeting. These resources included:

  • Guidelines for Judges Meeting Children who are subject to Family Proceedings
  • Preparing the Child or Young Person
  • A child and young person's guide to meeting a judge in the family court
  • Top tips for judges from children and young people
  • A feedback form to evalate how children and young people felt about the meeting

Family Information Service

01904 554444

fis@york.gov.uk