When divorce or separation proceedings involving children are going through court the welfare of the children are always considered before anything else. A recent act also now presumes that both parents will have involvement with the children. This act does not presume a 50-50 split of contact but does consider it within the children’s interest to have some form of contact with both parents, unless there is good reason to prevent this.
However, what is considered in the best interests of the children is open to much interpretation and the courts have to go through a rigorous process to reach a decision.
There is a basic list of what will be discussed when making decisions on child welfare. Included in the list is:
- The child’s wishes and feelings
- Physical, emotional and educational needs
- Any harm or risk of harm that the child is suffering
- A parent’s ability to meet the child’s needs
- The child’s age, sex and background
- What the effect on the child is likely to be if their circumstances change.
This list will influence any decision made and parents must be aware of it before they enter into court proceedings. How a judge interprets the list and what emphasis is put on each point will vary from case to case.
The welfare of the children comes at a much higher priority than the wishes of the parents in a court case. In order for both parents to retain full control of the decision making process they should consider mediation as an alternative, but this requires cooperation and compromise and therefore is not suitable for every situation.