Where children are involved in relationship breakdown, and parents are unable to reach agreement over the arrangements for the children, it is not unusual to hear one parent talk about their right to see their child.
That may seem a reasonable assertion, particularly allied to the fact that they will probably have parental responsibility for that child, and may very well be supporting their child financially. There is also Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998 which protects our right to respect for our private and family life. In the event that a parent issues an application to the Court, however, to be able to spend time with their child, the focus for the Court is what is in the best interests of the child concerned and their welfare will be the Court’s paramount consideration.
In determining what is in the best interests of the child, the court has regard to a number of factors, set out in s1 of the Children Act 1989 and known as “the Welfare Checklist”. These factors include:
- The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child, bearing in mind their age and level of understanding
- The effect on them of any proposed change
- Whether the child has suffered harm or is at risk of suffering it
- How capable the parents are in meeting the child’s needs, which include not just their physical and emotional needs but educational needs as well
There is a presumption, and which is set out in s1(2A) of the Children Act 1989, that it is in a child’s best interests for there to be continued parental involvement with the parent they do not live with, so long as that does not put the child at risk of suffering harm. By having this presumption, it can help ensure that both parents remain in their children’s lives. This presumption, is subject to a government review as part of the government’s wider plans to reform family courts and bring in greater protections for domestic abuse victims.
Should you want to discuss this in more detail and find out how this may impact on you, please do not hesitate to contact me or one of my colleagues in the Family Department at Josiah Hincks.
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