One of the most recently asked questions is at what age will a Court listen to a child’s wishes and feelings and whether or not a child’s wishes will be followed by a Court.
There are various “urban myths” that abound in this area, particularly in relation to whether or not once a child turns 11 their wishes will automatically be followed.
A child’s welfare is the Court’s paramount consideration
It is important to remember that when a Court is looking at issues relating to children, the Judge has a discretion, bearing in mind always, that the child’s welfare is the Court’s paramount consideration. The Court in exercising its discretion will consider the welfare checklist contained within the Children Act at section 1(3).
The welfare checklist
The first of these factors contained in the welfare checklist is the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in light of their age and understanding). This is often misinterpreted to mean that if a child is older, the Court will automatically follow their views. This is not the case. It is important to ensure that the child is provided with an opportunity to be heard but a child’s wishes and feelings, by themselves, are not determinative. They do not and will not override the welfare considerations a court must apply.
This approach has been confirmed by the Court
This approach has been confirmed by the Court in a number of cases and it is important always to remember that the wishes and feelings of a mature child do not carry any precedence over any other of the factors contained in the welfare checklist either. Even older children can have their wishes overruled on the basis of their welfare.
If you involved in Court proceedings concerning a child and would like our advice and assistance we have specialist solicitors at Stephens Scown LLP who will be able to help and assist you.
Mark Smith is a partner and specialist family solicitor with a specialism in disputes involving children. Our family law team advises families across the South West on the best solutions for them. If you would like to get in touch to discuss contact with your children contact the team by telephone 0345 450 5558 or email firstname.lastname@example.org