My initial reaction to the ruling last week is ‘yeah, brilliant.’ Lady Hale, Deputy President of the Supreme Court, suggested a 13 year olds perception of where she should live is as important as that of her parents. Being always a big believer in young people having their say in things that affect them, it was really good to see this. Let’s face it, what can be more important to a 13 year old than who they are to live with especially when, as in this case, parents intend to live in different countries.
But, let’s face it. There’s 13. And there’s 13. My guess is that the 13 year old girl in this case was pretty sorted about what she wanted to happen. But it is such a tough call. Whilst some 13 year old girls spend their evenings sticking posters of Harry Styles to their walls, other’s are contemplating how best to navigate movement in super-wedges and a bodycon dress. And, of course, that issue of subjectivity doesn’t go away as young teenagers become older teenagers. Some people, whatever their age, have greater insight, understanding and capacity to make decisions and, at the very least, add to the debate about what should happen to them.
It’s complicated stuff though. I’m writing a book at the moment about 15 year old twins at the centre of their parents residence battle. One of my girls has decided, categorically, that she does not want to have a say in with whom they are to live. She does not want that pressure. In her heart, she knows what she wants but she cannot bear the emotional impact it will have if she verbalises this.
I wonder how the family in the case above dealt with that one. The girl said she wanted to stay in the UK with her father. Regardless of the outcome of the case, I wonder what effect this (very brave) assertion by the teenager had and will continue to have on on-going relations between her, both parents and her siblings.
There is too the another situation which can put a spanner in the works. That is, where the views of a young person change. I’m not saying that was an issue in this case as for proceedings to make it to the Supreme Court, the teenagers views must have been solid and consistent. But sometimes, in family proceedings, the views of the child can become warped. That is, the fact that Dad won’t teenager out to a party but Mum will, can give Mum the advantage. But then, when Mum just happens to mutter that Dad’s been out clubbing with a 19 year old, it levels it out. So what does Dad do? He swings the pendulum again with a pair Nike trainers and a week in the Algarve. I’m not saying it’s always like this and I’m certainly not saying teenagers don’t and can’t see through these type (whether intentional or not) of parental manoeuvres. All I’m saying is with the ebb and flow of managing two parents who both want you, it must, inevitably, be so hard to workout what’s best for you.