Children’s wishes are the magnetic factor

When considering whether to make an order in relation to a child the court must have regard in particular to a number of factors, one of which is the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned, considered in the light of their age and understanding.

The effect of this is that, in general, the wishes of the child will have a bearing upon the court’s decision, and the weight to be given to their wishes will increase as they get older.

The importance of the wishes of children was demonstrated in a recent case in the High Court.

The case concerned a father’s application for the summary return of his two children from England and Wales to Qatar. At the time of the hearing of the application in November the older child, a girl, was 15 years old and will be 16 next summer, and the younger child, a boy, was a month short of his 13th birthday.

The family, of Egyptian origin, had lived in Qatar since about 2008. Their marriage broke down and they were divorced in 2017, since when the children have been living with the mother.

From around 2021 the older child began expressing a wish to study in England or the USA. The mother sought to raise this idea with the father, but he rejected it.

Notwithstanding this, the mother pursued the idea of relocation, and in July 2023 she brought the children to this country, intending it to be a permanent move.

In August the father issued an application in the High Court in London, seeking the return of the children.

The judge hearing the application found that the wishes of the children were the factor of magnetic importance. Both of them spoke negatively about both Qatar and their father, and expressed the firm view that they did not wish to return.

The judge was also concerned that that the voices of the children would not be fully heard under Qatari law if they were returned.

He concluded: “The reality in this case is that I am looking at the welfare of two intelligent and articulate children, one of whom is approaching her 16th birthday, who are expressing strong, clear and consistent views that they do not wish to return to Qatar. Those views … must be given great weight in the balance that I have to strike. To order a summary return of these children to Qatar in the face of such views would in my judgment be wholly contrary to the children’s welfare.”

Accordingly, the father’s application was dismissed.

You can read the report of the case here.

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