Fresh delay dashes bid to guarantee separate representation for children

Legislation to ensure all children in  private law cases are represented separately from their parents will be hit by a new delay while the government seeks more consultation.

The Department for Constitutional Affairs said it had to consider more evidence before making a decision to expand on family court rule 9.5, which allows children to have separate  representation in the most complex private law cases.

The government has already frustrated campaigners by delaying implementation of part of section 122 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002, which was intended to introduce independent welfare and legal representation for children in contact and residence cases, while research on rule 9.5 was completed.

This led to accusations it had reneged on its promises.

But the research by Cardiff University was finally published in full last week and found most parents and children favoured separate representation.

However, it also highlighted the“likelihood of added delay and costs to the proceedings”.

The report recommended that children should always be separately represented before enforcement orders are made under the Children and Adoption Bill, which is now going through parliament.

Constitutional affairs minister Harriet Harman said the research would be “used to inform” the making of court rules under section 122.

A DCA spokesperson said the resource implications of implementing section 122 were “a concern”. She said there were no estimates of the cost of providing separate representation
and that further consultation was planned for the autumn.

But Liz Goldthorpe, chair of the Association of Lawyers for Children, said the government would use the research as an “excuse” to prevent implementation of section 122.


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