welfare principle

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The principle that, when making a decision in relation to a child's upbringing, the child's welfare must be the court's paramount consideration (Children Act 1989 s 1). This means that the child's best interests are at all times the court's sole concern and that other factors (such as the “rights” of the parents) are only relevant to the extent that they assist the court in ascertaining the best solution for the child (J v C [1970] AC 668). The Children Act 1989 does not define welfare but it introduced a checklist of factors to which the court must have regard when deciding whether to make certain orders such as section 8 orders and care orders. These factors include: the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his age and understanding); the physical, emotional, and educational needs of the child together with his age, sex, and background; any harm that the child has suffered or is likely to suffer; and how capable his parents or any other relevant persons (e.g. a step-parent) are of meeting his needs. Under the Act any delay in determining the question of upbringing is deemed likely to prejudice the welfare of the child. However, a court will only make an order if it considers that this is the only means of ensuring the child's welfare. See also feature Adoption Law.

Subjects: Law.

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