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The Children Act 1989 - The Law

When a court determines a question with respect to the upbringing of a child, the child's welfare shall be the court's paramount consideration. Two additional points concerning the welfare of such a child need to be considered.

First, the courts are required, in public and private law proceedings, to establish a timetable and give directions for the expeditious handling of each case, because the courts must have regard to the general principle that any delay is likely to prejudice the welfare of the child: s1(2). This is not intended to be rigid. Purposeful delay, as opposed to unplanned drift, is acceptable (C v. Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council [1993] 1 FLR 290).

Second, courts must have regard, in opposed applications for a section 8 order and in care proceedings to a checklist concerning the child’s circumstances as set out in section 1(3). This list of matters concerns

  • The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child (considered in the light of his age and understanding);
  • his physical, emotional and educational needs;
  • the likely effect on him of any change in his circumstances;
  • his age, sex, background and any characteristics of his which the court considers relevant;
  • any harm that he has suffered or is at risk of suffering
  • how capable each of his parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his needs; and
  • the range of powers available to the court in the proceedings in question.

A wider list of matters relating to circumstances in which adoption is being considered is contained in the Adoption and Children Act 2002.

These lists are known as the 'welfare checklists'.

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