Family Court Welfare
The Family Court Welfare Service, with its own dedicated team of professionals, sits alongside probation and was set up to safeguard and promote the welfare of children involved in family court proceedings.
The primary objective of the Family Court Welfare Service is to assist the Family Court in the task of serving the needs of children whose parents are involved in separation or divorce or whose families are involved in disputes in family law.
The Family Court Welfare Service prioritises the needs of children and will promote their interests in all aspects of its work and follows the current legislation and guidance.
A Family Court Welfare Officer is appointed by the court when parties, most commonly parents, have not been able to reach an agreement about arrangements for their children when their relationship breaks down. The court will request the Family Court Welfare Officer to make enquiries and produce a report and add domains of a checklist.
An important part of every Family Court Welfare Officer’s work is to spend time talking and listening to or observing children to ascertain their views if they are of an age to express them. The observations of the Family Court Welfare Officer and the wishes and feelings of the child will form part of the report submitted to court. The report will also include relevant information such as present arrangements for the child and areas of agreement or disagreement between the parties. In writing this report, the Family Court Welfare Officer may contact other people who know the parents and the child, such as teachers, Social Services, nursery, and other family members. Police checks may also be carried out on the parents and significant others.
When making decisions regarding a child, the court will consider the recommendation of the Family Court Welfare Officer and the views of the parties. Although the court will take the child’s wishes and feelings into account it does not mean the court will always do what the child wishes but will make a decision that is in the best interests of the child's safety and welfare.
The report is confidential and is only seen by the parties and their legal representatives, the Deemster or High Bailiff and the Clerk of the Court. However, it may be necessary in some circumstances to pass information to other agencies such as the Social Services department and Family Protection Unit if there is a concern regarding the safety of a child.
Although the Family Court Welfare Service will, wherever possible, assist parties in reaching agreement regarding the arrangements for children, they are not a mediation service and are not able to undertake this role. The Family Court Welfare Officer can act only on the instruction and direction of the court and cannot conduct any work without this direction.