Welfare of children
In family proceedings involving children, the Courts must consider the welfare of a child as of paramount concern. The child’s welfare is their priority.
What is the Welfare Checklist?
When the family court is making a decision on matters that will affect a child, the courts are required to look at the welfare of the child as the paramount consideration. The welfare checklist consists of seven statutory criteria that the courts must consider under the Children Act 1989 when reaching its decision in cases involving children.
What are these criteria?
The seven criteria set out in the welfare checklist under s1(3) Children Act 1989 are:
- The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned
- The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
- The likely effect on the child if circumstances changed as a result of the court’s decision
- The child’s age, sex, backgrounds and any other characteristics which will be relevant to the court’s decision
- Any harm the child has suffered or maybe at risk of suffering
- Capability of the child’s parents (or any other person the courts find relevant) at meeting the child’s needs
- The powers available to the court in the given proceedings
1. The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned
The court must consider the wishes and feelings of the child, taking into account the child’s age and level of understanding in the circumstances. This will normally be determined by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) or social services, and reported to the court. In some cases, a judge may speak directly with a child to determine their wishes and feelings if this is deemed necessary.
The court will take into account whether or not a child’s wishes and feelings are their own, or whether outside factors may have influenced their decisions. There may also be a conflict of opinion between the parents’/guardians’ views and that of the child.
For more information on:
- 2. The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
- 3. The likely effect on the child of changes in circumstances
- 4. The child’s age, sex, background and other relevant characteristics
- 5. Risk of harm to the child
- 6. Parents’ ability to meet the child’s needs
- 7. The range of powers available to the courts