What is the Welfare Checklist in Family Law

When a court in England or Wales is dealing with any aspect of a matrimonial dispute between a divorcing couple and, where the parties have children of their marriage, the court will always consider the Welfare of the Children as being of paramount importance.

This means that no matter what the parties need or agree between them, the court will want to ensure that the needs of the children of the marriage are adequately met.

The issues that a court will be taking into consideration relating to the children of a marriage are set out in a piece of law called ‘the Welfare Checklist’. This points the court to each of the aspects of a child’s welfare that needs to be considered.

The welfare checklist looks at the following issues

  • The wishes and feelings of the child (considered in the light of the child’s age and understanding)
  • The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
  • The likely effect of any change in the child’s circumstances
  • The child’s age, sex, background and any characteristics which the court considers relevant
  • Any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering
  • How capable each of parent is of meeting the needs of the children.

In deciding these factors an independent Child and Family Reporter (called a CAFCASS Officer) may be asked to meet the parents and the children and prepare a report to help the court decide what needs to be done.

The court will not make any order relating to a child unless it is satisfied that making an order would be better for the child than not making an order.

In situations where the child’s welfare is unclear and the parents disagree on fundamental issues, the court will make interim orders, intended to protect the child and provide the most secure environment, until a final decision can be reached. Cases such as this are sadly all too common and it is in such a situation where good legal representation is going to make a difference.

Most family disputes can, however, be resolved without using the courts and we can help you to make suitable Child Arrangements through Mediation and with a sensible and proactive legal team negotiating on your behalf, while ensuring that the welfare of the children always comes first.

We are committed to seeking an amicable settlement in respect of child welfare matters wherever possible. If this is something you wish to discuss in absolute confidence, contact us for a consultation.