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Dr Marilyn Freeman & Anne-Marie Hutchinson OBE: The Voice of the Child in International Child Abduction

Date:12 DEC 2007

Dr Marilyn Freeman, Reader in Family and Child Law, London Metropolitan University and Anne-Marie Hutchinson OBE, Dawson Cornwell

This article is based on an address to the International Society of Family Law's Regional Conference, University of Chester, July 2007.

This article considers the issue of the voice of the child in international child abduction, both in the context of the empirical research that the first author undertook on behalf of the reunite Research Unit as part of the project investigating the effects of international child abduction (M Freeman for the reunite Research Unit, International Child Abduction, The Effects (reunite, 2006) the Effects Report), as well as in relation to recent judicial developments relating to the question of separate representation of children in abduction proceedings. Issues of public policy which arise, and the incongruities that exist between the position in this area and other areas of child law, are also addressed. Without rehearsing the entire contents of the Effects Report, some of the findings of that research provide a platform from which we can explore the issues of the child's voice and separate representation in abduction cases. The report was the result of a 2-year research project, funded by the then Department for Constitutional Affairs, investigating the effects of international child abduction on a sample of families who had been through an abduction event (see also [2006] IFL 129). It built on an earlier report of the Research Unit into the outcomes for children who have been returned following an abduction (M Freeman for the reunite Research Unit, Outcomes for Children Who Have Been Returned Following an Abduction (reunite, 2003)), which again was the culmination of a 2-year research project into what happens when a child is returned to the State of habitual residence following an abduction. During the most recent research process, we considered the effects of international child abduction on those involved. This included the children, the effects being ascertained both through the parental perspective, as well as, uniquely in a European context at least, directly with children who had been abducted. Those direct accounts have provided extremely important insights, all the more so as we were also able to work with a small sample of adults who were abducted as children, and their feedback has provided both further evidence of the experiences of the current children who took part in the research, as well as indications of the long-term effects of international child abduction.

For the full article, see November [2007] International Family Law.
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