The first, and paramount, consideration of the court is to the welfare of the child, as opposed to any perceived “rights” of any adults involved. The court will determine the facts and consider the Welfare Checklist to help it decide upon what is in the child’s best interests. A “presumption of continued parental involvement” exists, but this should not be mistaken as a presumption of shared care or guarantee of direct or indeed any contact. Rather it is an acknowledgement that parental contact with a child is assumed to be in a child’s best interests, providing of course there are no welfare issues why this should not be the case.
This checklist includes:
• the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child
• the child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
• the likely effect on the child of any change of circumstances
• the child’s age, sex, background and any characteristics of the child which the court considers relevant
• any harm which the child has suffered, or is at risk of suffering
• how capable each of the child’s parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question relevant, is of meeting the child’s needs
• the range of powers available to the court
What is a Welfare Report?
In more complicated cases, the court may direct CAFCASS to prepare a Welfare Report. This sets out the analysis and recommendations of an independent Family Court Advisor, for consideration by the court when deciding at a final hearing, if the parents do not agree prior to this.
The task is not an easy one for the court as there is no “one-size fits all” arrangement for children - no two families are the same, and different arrangements work for different families. The court will attempt to reach an outcome which suits everyone as best as is possible, providing always the children’s needs come first.
If you think this is a situation that might affect you, or indeed is a situation you find yourself in at the moment, please do get proper legal advice as soon as you can. We’re here to help you, just contact us on 0161 507 7145, or email firstname.lastname@example.org