Some Basic Legal Facts

Wherever possible, parents should try to agree arrangements for their children’s care.

If they cannot agree, there are various methods which can be explored to try and help them discuss matters, such as mediation or collaborative law.

Sometimes, however, court proceedings are necessary to protect children. Whatever form discussions about children take, it is helpful to understand the legal principles applied in cases concerning children.

The Law

The law concerning children is contained in the Children Act 1989. This Act contains various principles which are central to all cases concerning children.

The Welfare Principle

In deciding cases about children, the best interests of the children must be the court’s first and foremost consideration. The Court has a list of factors, called the ‘Welfare checklist’ which sets out matters to be considered when the court has to make a decision. These include:

  • the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned
  • the child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
  • the child’s age, sex and background and any characteristics which the court considers relevant
  • any harm the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering
  • how capable each of the child’s parents are at meeting the child’s needs.