Within Children Act proceedings the children’s welfare is the paramount consideration and the Court has to take into account a number of factors known as the “welfare checklist”. One of those factors is the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned, considered in light of their age and understanding.
If the child’s wishes and feelings are raised as a factor by a parent in deciding the child arrangements the court may order CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisor and Support Service) to, amongst other things, undertake a wishes and feelings assessment. CAFCASS represents children within family proceedings and will ensure their voice is heard and decisions are made in their best interest. Their findings will be set out within a report to the court.
How much weight is given to the child’s wishes and feelings will depend upon the child’s age and understanding. The wishes and feelings are unlikely to be determinative but the Judge will take them into account and generally speaking the Court will place great weight on the CAFCASS report.