The Post-Divorce-Parenting Glossary

Divorced-Parenting Term

Welfare Checklist

What is the welfare checklist?

In English law, courts use the welfare checklist to guide them on how to decide cases involving child custody. The welfare checklist is used to guide the court along a path of important child custody decisions. The welfare checklist consists of the following child issues:


(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 under this Act in the proceedings in question.

How does the welfare checklist relate to the best interest doctrine?

In the United States, the Best Interest Doctrine is used, but the two are similar. The welfare checklist is more of a strict list of considerations, while the best interest doctrine is a framework for how courts should think of child custody.

Essentially, the goal of the welfare checklist (England) and the best interest doctrine (United States) is the same – to put make the needs of the children paramount to the needs of other parties in the child custody case.

One problem that plagues the family court system in the United States is that every state has a different version of the law. Parents with child custody cases that involve more than one state face significant complications as a result of the different jurisdictions that may be involved.

How did the welfare checklist originate?

The welfare checklist is a component of the Children Act of 1989. This act resulted in a overhaul of how child custody cases were ruled on. It nullified many early statutes, that at that time were viewed as arcane.

What are the key components of the welfare checklist?

The first item, which states, "the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his age and understanding," is crucial in cases where children are older.  While a court must consider the child's wishes, it does not mean that the court must rule based solely on those wishes, but this is a very important component of the welfare checklist.

The last item in the welfare checklist also implies that the court has limits. If the court decides that a certain action is appropriate, but that action is out of the scope of the court’s power, the court cannot rule in such a manner.


Best Interest Doctrine & the Welfare Checklist
This Wikipedia Article describes how the Best Interest Doctrine incorporates the Welfare Checklist.
The Welfare Checklist
Te EHow article describes how the welfare checklist applies to family law child custody case, and how the Children Act 1989 made radical changes to U.K. family law.

The Welfare Checklist - England vs United States
This article describes how English Law differs from Family Law in the United States with the concept of the Welfare Checklist.

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