Do The Child's Wishes Count?

What a child feels and would like to happen regarding their own custody can sometimes be a useful tool for parents and judges alike to create a solution that will work for everyone. But at what age should a child’s point of view be taken into consideration? Is there a good age for this to happen? Is there an age at which the law recognises their wishes?

The Children Act 1989 states that the court must listen to the wishes of the child, and their feelings about their parents’ divorce. It is, however, rather vague when it comes to how much they should be taken into account, and whether there is an appropriate age at which their ideas become more relevant. The judge, therefore, must consider the age of the child before listening to what they have to say – and it is rather subjective. The viewpoint of a five year old would be looked upon as different to that of a 15 year old, even if they were going through the same thing.

That said, there are some aspects of what a child says that must be considered in the same way, no matter how old the child is or what the circumstances are. This includes how they might have been influenced by one or both parents. It’s true that a younger child might be influenced more easily than an older one, but this kind of influence must be considered no matter what the age. Other factors that should be taken into account are how much the child really understands of the situation and how mature they are.

Therefore, the child’s age has almost very little to do with how much the judge takes from their testimony. If they are articulate, bright, and have a good grasp of what is happening, if they are not unduly influenced one way or the other by a parent or parents, and if they offer something pertinent to the case, they will be listened to, whether they are very young, or approaching 18 years old. 

Please contact us if you have any questions about any aspect of family law.

Simon Walland