Thursday, May 13, 2010

What age can a child choose who to live with?

A recent case in the Court of Appeal re W(Children)refused permission to the Father to appeal against a High Court ruling which found that two children aged 8 and 6 had sufficient maturity in order for their views to be given priority.

In the past, the wishes and feelings of a child have always been taken into account in compliance with the Welfare Checklist, but the caveat is in accordance with their age and maturity,

Anecdotally, Social Workers have advised that children of 10 and above have a viewpoint which the Court is unlikely to ignore.

This case is surprising, given the extremely young age of the children.

Contrast this to another case before the Court of Appeal, widely reported, where a 13 year old boy has been ordered to live with his Father, despite having no contact with him and steadfastly refusing to do so. The Court considered that staying with the Mother would cause the child further emotional harm and the child has been placed in temporary foster care as he refuses to co-operate with the Court Agreement.

It would, therefore, appear that there is no such age at which a child's views carry priority. Each case is, therefore, judged upon its own facts. It is also difficult to judge on what basis a very young child makes their decision. Is it because one Parent allows them to stay up late and do as they please? Is it because one Parent buys them expensive gifts and takes them on expensive holidays?

Sometimes the children's wishes and feelings can be against their own best interests. I know my 7 year old Son would love to drive a car!


Anonymous said...

Intresting but unhelpfull really. When my son was 9 a 17 page wishes and feelings report by cafcass stated how desperate he is and has been for years to live with me rather than Dad but concluded that as that would mean moving schools twice he had to stay with Dad under a shared residence order. He is now nearly 12 and still desperately unhappy there....just amazese me at the unfairness of it all!!

Anonymous said...

Now your son will only have to move school once. You have a Shared Residence order so you are halfway there. If your son is desperately unhappy the Court should listen to him. Now they will commission a wishes and feelings report on its own - CAFCASS at his age will be told to cover just that one aspect. Good luck...