General Principles under the Children Act 1989
Section 1 of the Act contains 3 general principles:
- The welfare of the child is paramount
- Delay is likely to prejudice the welfare of the child
- The court shall not make an order unless to do so would be better for the child than making no order.
The ‘welfare principle’, ‘paramountcy’, or ‘best interests’ principle
s 1(1) ‘When a court determines any question with respect to –
- the upbringing of a child; or
- the administration of a child’s property or the application of any income arising from it, the child’s welfare shall be the court’s paramount consideration.’
The avoidance of delay
- s 1(2) ‘In any proceedings in which any question in respect to the upbringing of a child arises, the court shall have regard to the general principle that any delay in determining the question is likely to prejudice the welfare of the child.’
- s 11(1) – where court is considering making a section 8 order, or any question relating to a section 8 order, it shall ‘draw up a timetable with a view to determining the question without delay’, and give direction to try to ensure that the timetable is adhered to.
The ‘no order’ principle
- s 1(5) ‘Where a court is considering whether or not to make one or more orders under this Act with respect to a child, it shall not make the order or any of the orders unless it considers that doing so would be better for the child than making no order at all.’
Section 8 Orders
Where this is a dispute between individuals concerning the upbringing of a child, section 8 of the Children Act 1989 contains a range of orders which can be made, namely, residence orders, contact orders, prohibited steps orders, and specific issue orders.
The general principles contained in section 1 of the Act apply in all cases concerning the upbringing of a child. The welfare checklist must be considered where the making of a section 8 order is opposed s1(4).
- s 8(1) – “an order settling the arrangements to be made as to the person with whom a child is to live”.
- s 12(1) – where the order is in favour of an unmarried father without parental responsibility the court shall also make an order under section 4 giving him that responsibility.
- s 12(2) – where the order is in favour of a person who is not the parent or guardian of the child that person shall have parental responsibility for the child while the order is in force.
- s 13 – where a residence order is in force no person may change the child’s surname or remove the child from the UK for more than one month without the consent of every person with parental responsibility or the leave of the court.
- s 11(7) – the court may attach conditions to any section 8 order: any condition must be enforceable
- s 91(10) – residence orders last until child reaches 18.
For more information on:
- Shared residence
- Contact Orders
- Courts’ approach to contact
- Prohibited Steps Orders
- Specific Issue Orders