What factors do the court take into account if there is a court dispute over child residence or contact?

If negotiations over child residence or contact via family solicitors or direct fail, then the may be no other option than to proceed via the court system. For example, where a non resident parent considers that the resident parent has become unfit to care for the children or where they wish to have the children reside with them, they may consider applying for a residence order themselves, but the court will take in to account the following factors to ensure that the child’s best interests are at the forefront of any decision:

(a)the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his age and understanding);

(b)his physical, emotional and educational needs;

(c)the likely effect on him of any change in his circumstances;

(d)his age, sex, background and any characteristics of his which the court considers relevant;

(e)any harm which he has suffered or is at risk of suffering;

(f)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;

(g)the range of powers available to the court under this Act in the proceedings in question.

This is called the welfare checklist and is governed by section 1 of the children act 1989. A court will have regard to this when a party applies for any order involving a child of the family. Such order could include a residence or contact order, as detailed above, a prohibited steps order, where one party wishes to prevent the other from taking certain actions in relation to the child, or a specific issues order. This type of order is usually made when the parties cannot agree on the course of action to be taken as to a certain issue, such as the schooling of the child or the medical needs of the child.

Another order that may be made is a parental responsibility order, which is an order to give parental responsibility to a person, who has not acquired this automatically. If a resident parent is worried about the threat of violence or harassment from the other party, they may wish to apply for a non molestation order, this would cover the resident parent as well as the children of the family.

For any other family law enquiries, Darlingtons Solicitors can help.