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20 Oct 2022 Informal legal input for minors

The court can invite minors aged 12 or older to express their views in a letter or so-called child hearing when parents are involved in legal proceedings. The child's opinion will count in the proceedings but it is not the case that a child may, for example, choose which parent will have their main residence. There is also a possibility for children to contact a judge themselves, known as informal legal input.

Dutch law allows a minor child of 12 years or older or a minor who can be considered capable of properly perceiving his/her interests to apply to the court. Therefore, if the child is younger than 12, he/she must be able to perceive his/her own interests. The child should be able to form and express an opinion.

A minor can approach the court for:
- establishing a visitation arrangement, adjustment or termination;
- establishing an information and consultation arrangement;
- adjustment of parental authority;
- appointing someone to look after his/her interests, a so-called "special guardian".

The minor does not have to make an official request but can very easily write or call the judge.

Following the child's request, the judge will see which next steps are in the child's best interests. Often, the child will be invited to a meeting to explain the request to the judge. The judge will always enter into discussion with the parents and, if necessary, with the help of advice from the Child Protection Board, weigh up what is the best solution to the problems at hand. The judge will weigh all the facts and circumstances to reach a decision. Not the child's wishes but the child's best interests come first.

For example, if a child indicates he or she hardly wants to visit the other parent anymore, the judge may still conclude that it is not good for the child to have no contact with that parent, even if it is sometimes not nice at home with that parent. Possibly, with the help of third parties, things that are not going well should be talked out. There may also be a counselling programme to improve communication problems between the parents.

Through this informal court input, a judge will seriously consider a child's request and the child can have his or her own voice heard. During the interview, the judge will, however, check whether a child has thought carefully about the request and whether it is really a request from the child himself or herself.

Do you have any questions or need advice? If so, please contact us without obligation. We will be happy to assist you

SPEE advocaten & mediation Maastricht

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