Child’s ‘wishes and feelings’ of limited weight

Posted: 7th December 2012

In a ruling that underlines the limited weight that can be placed on the ‘wishes and feelings’ of children in family cases, the Court of Appeal has opened the way for a mother to relocate to Ireland with her 10-year-old daughter – despite the girl’s clearly expressed desire to stay in England with her father.

The mother, who has been her daughter’s primary carer since she and her husband separated several years ago, had been granted permission to relocate to Cork with her child by a family judge on grounds that the move would enable her to give her daughter a more secure and stable future. The judge had said: ‘The child is relatively young and cannot comprehend the complexities with which her mother must wrestle. She does not understand that her current way of life is not sustainable. The adults in her life have to provide for her and the proposals put forward by her mother do that sensibly and adequately.’RCJ

The father argued on appeal that the judge had taken insufficient account of the girl’s insistence that she did not want to leave England where she is doing well at school, has many friends and enjoys regular contact with her father and the paternal family.

However, dismissing the appeal, the court noted the mother’s plea that the move to Ireland would allow her more flexible working conditions, enabling her to spend more time with her daughter, and greater financial security. The mother had agreed that the girl would spend the majority of her school holidays with her father.

There had been no material change in the girl’s views since the family judge’s ruling and the court observed that further proceedings, in which the girl would inevitably be embroiled, would be 'unthinkable' and harmful to her welfare.