From an excellent article in Mediate.com called “Best Interests and Little Voices: Child Participation in the Family Mediation Dialogue” by Jennifer Winestone:
Children were historically excluded from post-separation decision-making, because of the assumption that children lacked the “legal and psychological capacity” to participate in decisions and that insulating children from the decision-making process would somehow protect them from the turmoil of divorce. But these were not the only reasons children were left out of the post-separation conversation. In accordance with the old adages “father/mother knows best”, “[a] related assumption was that parents know what is in their child’s best interests, and children’s views would, therefore, be adequately represented by their parents.”
Studies show that these assumptions are false; in fact, “children’s meaningful participation in decision-making can reduce the negative affects of family breakdown” and “often promotes their social well-being.” Empirical findings suggest that children want to have a “voice” in the processes that “fundamentally affect their lives,” and that not listening to children’s voices “may do more harm than good.” Accordingly, there has been an increase in developments aimed at promoting the “voice of the child” in family law processes.
Recognition and respect for the “voice of the child” has evolved not merely as a value-added phenomenon, but from a social recognition of children as “rights-bearing individuals rather than as merely objects of concern or subjects of decisions.” [footnotes included in full article]
I learned a lot from this piece.