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!