This week marks Children's Mental Health Week and it could not have come at a more apt time. We have now been faced with Covid-19 restrictions for almost a year and the vast majority of children are not currently in school. It would be difficult to find anyone, young or old, who has not been affected.
The events of the last 12 months have taught us many things. It is widely acknowledged that safeguarding our mental health is paramount in seeking to overcome the challenges that our nation is facing. The Duchess of Cambridge has highlighted during her video message the crucial need for parents and carers to look after their own mental wellbeing, and the impact that this has on the children in their care. Many are undoubtedly struggling to prioritise their own wellbeing and this is particularly difficult for those who are experiencing a breakdown in their marriage or relationship.
The Family Court's message for those locked in proceedings is clear: the welfare of a child of the family is its paramount concern. This trumps everything else. It encourages parents to reach agreements about arrangements for children on separation outside of the Court arena to avoid the emotional and financial expense of litigation. It expects all parents who wish to make an application to the Court regarding their children to first seek the help of a mediator in the hope that this may avoid the need to issue proceedings. In short, it is encouraged that the Court is very much seen as the last resort. If proceedings are issued, parents should expect the Court to want to establish the views of the children (depending on their ages) and these will be taken into account when determining what is best for them. There is currently a real push within the family law sphere for children to be given a voice on what their future should look like and to consider ways in which their exposure to the damaging effects of an acrimonious parental separation can be minimised. This is, after all, vital in seeking to protect their mental health for the future.