I was honoured to present to the WA Family Pathways Network annual conference today on the importance of listening to children and young people in the family law system.
This annual event draws together legal and support staff working with families going through separation and divorce proceedings in the WA Family Court.
The Family Court is a unique place where children can be exposed to conflict between the important people in their lives and are often asked to choose a side, or disclose personal family information.
This presents real challenges in ensuring that children are supported to speak up and have their voices heard in matters that affect them, such as how custody will be determined.
Children always have a right to the support, assistance and encouragement necessary to maintain positive, meaningful relationships and connections to family.
The mental health of children undergoing separation and family law proceedings requires very close attention and they need to be adequately supported at all times throughout the process.
Children and young people should never feel as if they are just a number in the system.
It was encouraging to see the number of people attending the conference and recognising the need to listen to children undergoing family separation and subsequent legal proceedings.
One in five Western Australian dependent children are living in a one parent family, and in 2014−15 the Western Australian Family Court had an increase of 3.4 per cent in the number of divorce applications.