When parents separate or divorce, decisions have to be made that will have significant impacts on their children. Finding ways to include children’s participation in those decisions is often referred to as promoting “the voice of the child”.
Promoting children’s participation in decision-making in the context of family law is a relatively recent development. Historically, children were viewed as objects of concern, lacking the capacity to participate in family law matters and in need of protection from parental conflict (Graham and Fitzgerald, 2005; Morrow and Richards, 1996; Roche, 1999; Taylor, Smith and Tapp, 1999) or from being put in the middle of their parents’ disputes (Emery, 2003; Warshak, 2003). It was assumed that, if children could be insulated from post-separation decision-making, they would be sheltered from the turmoil of their parents’ relationship breakdown (Smart, 2002). A related assumption was that parents know what is in their child’s best interests (O’Quigley, 2000; Timms, 2003), and, hence, that children’s views are adequately represented by adults.