Do children get to decide how often they see each parent?

Is it a child's choice? Who decides?

When parents separate, the arrangements for their children are in the forefront of their mind.  Sometimes the plan for how children will see each parent is quite straightforward and amicable to agree between the parents.

For others this can be a significant area of disagreement which can lead to disputes that end up in court.  The dispute can often flow from what each parent thinks is best for the child, or what each parent thinks the child wants. How would that be decided by the court?

The law provides that a child should have time with both parents unless there are good reasons not to allow it (such as a real risk of physical or emotional harm).  The legislation does not dictate how this time should be divided, instead outlining that any arrangements should be in the child’s best interests and with reference to considerations called the Welfare Checklist. The Welfare Checklist states that a court shall have regard in particular to—

(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.

The child’s wishes and feelings form part of this review, such information often being gathered in the court process by a CAFCASS officer who prepares a report with recommendations for future arrangements.  The child might express a wish, but that isn’t necessarily determinative because the Judge has to balance all of the welfare checklist points.

The court process can be very frustrating, slow and expensive for parent’s dealing with these issues, doing little to improve or develop a post-separation co-parenting  relationship.  Family Mediation offers an alternative to court. We can help you to discuss and resolve issues relating to the arrangements for your children including where they live and how much time they spend with each parent, moving home, changes to school or a review of arrangements already in place.  Our mediators are qualified to meet with your children during the mediation process if you both agree and the children are old enough to participate (normally over10 years old) and want to.  The Child Inclusive Mediation process enables us to bring the views of the children into the discussions.  This isn’t about giving a child the responsibility to choose an outcome or the pressure to pick between parents, instead giving them an opportunity to have their voice heard as part of their parents’ decision-making process.

If you would like to find out more, call us on 0800 206 2258or email You can also book a free 20 minute calling using the online booking facility on our website.

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