The welfare checklist

When the court is asked to make decisions relating to a child’s upbringing, the child’s welfare is the paramount concern. The court applies a checklist of principles which focus on what is in the best interests of the child.

When an argument about the care of your child arises, you should always consider the alternatives to court. That will enable you to be in control of the decisions. It will help to sort things out more quickly – and should help you and your ex to communicate more effectively in the future.

When a court decides an issue about the upbringing of a child, the child's welfare will be paramount. This takes precedence over your interests and feelings as parents.

The checklist the court applies means the court will take into account:

  • the wishes and feelings of your child (considered in the light of their age and understanding;
  • your child's physical, emotional and educational needs
  • the likely effect on them of any change in their circumstances
  • their age, sex, background and any of their characteristics that the court considers relevant;
  • any harm which they have suffered or are at risk of suffering
  • how capable you and your ex (and any other person the court considers relevant) are in meeting their needs
  • the range of orders available to the court

There are also a number of other general principles the court has to apply. For example, it should only make an order if it is best for your child for the court to intervene. And it should be mindful that delay is likely to prejudice your child's best interests. There is also now a presumption in favour of both parents being involved in the upbringing of their child if this is safe and appropriate.

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