What does the Family Court have to look at when making decisions about a child?
2 minute read
When the Family Court makes any decision relating to a child, the child’s welfare must always be the court’s ‘paramount consideration’. This is known as the welfare principle. Or the paramountcy principle. It means the court needs to think what is in the child’s best interests when it makes decisions (see section 1 (1) of the Children Act 1989.
To help work out what is in a child’s best interests, the court must use the welfare checklist. This is set out at section 1 (3) of the Children Act 1989.
The checklist says that the Family Court must take into account:
- The child’s wishes and feelings (bearing in mind the child’s age and understanding)
- The child’s needs (physical, emotional and educational)
- The likely effect on the child of any changes in their circumstances
- The child’s age, sex and background (and any other relevant characteristics)
- Any harm the child has suffered (or any risk of harm)
- The parents’ ability to meet the child’s needs
- All the powers the Family Court has.
To understand the child’s wishes and feelings the court should draw on information from:
- The child’s social worker
- The children’s guardian
- Family members
- And the child more directly (depending on their age).
When the Family Court is asked to make any kind of order about a child’s life under the Children Act 1989, it must ask whether an order is needed. Or whether the plans the court has decided, or agreed, are right for the child can still be put in place without an order being made.