J v C (An Infant): HL 19 Feb 1969

The House sought to construe the meaning of the words ‘shall regard the welfare of the infant as the first and paramount consideration’. Lord MacDermott said: ‘it seems to me that they must mean more than that the child’s welfare is to be treated as the top item in a list of items relevant to the matter in question. I think they connote a process whereby, when all the relevant facts, relationships, claims and wishes of parents, risks, choices and other circumstances are taken into account and weighed, the course to be followed will be that which is most in the interests of the child’s welfare as that term has now to be understood. That is the first consideration because it is of first importance and the paramount consideration because it rules upon or determines the course to be followed.’ and

‘In applying section 1, the rights and wishes of parents, whether unimpeachable or otherwise, must be assessed and weighed in their bearing on the welfare of the child in conjunction with all other factors relevant to that issue.
While there is now no rule of law that the rights and wishes of unimpeachable parents must prevail over other considerations, such rights and wishes, recognised as they are by nature and society, can be capable of ministering to the total welfare of the child in a special way, and must therefore preponderate in many cases. The parental rights, however, remain qualified and not absolute for the purposes of the investigation the broad nature of which is still as described in the fourth of the principles enunciated by FitzGibbon L.J. in In Re O’Hara [1900] 2 I.R. 232, 240.’


Lord MacDermott, Lord Guest, Lord Upjohn


[1970] AC 668, [1969] UKHL 4, [1969] 3 WLR 868, [1969] 3 All ER 1140




Guardianship of Infants Act 1925 1


England and Wales


CitedRegina v Gyngall 1893
The father of the child (a girl of about 15) was dead and it was the mother who was the guardian, it seems by operation of the Guardianship of Infants Act 1886. The decision of the first instance court not to return the girl to her mother, despite . .
CitedRe B’s Settlement, B v B 1940
Morton J said: ‘I desire to say quite plainly that in my view this Court is bound in every case, without exception, to treat the welfare of its ward as being the first and paramount consideration, whatever orders may have been made by the Courts of . .
CitedMcKee v McKee PC 15-Mar-1951
(Canada) There was a choice open to the trial judge facing a contest for the custody of a child: ‘It is possible that a case might arise in which it appeared to a court, before which the question of custody of an infant came, that it was in the best . .
CitedRe O’Hara 1900
(Ireland) FitzGibbon LJ SAID: ‘In exercising the jurisdiction to control or to ignore the parental right the court must act cautiously, not as if it were a private person acting with regard to his own child, and acting in opposition to the parent . .

Cited by:

CitedIn Re A (Minors) (Conjoined Twins: Medical Treatment); aka In re A (Children) (Conjoined Twins: Surgical Separation) CA 22-Sep-2000
Twins were conjoined (Siamese). Medically, both could not survive, and one was dependent upon the vital organs of the other. Doctors applied for permission to separate the twins which would be followed by the inevitable death of one of them. The . .
CitedIn Re KD (A Minor) (Ward: Termination of Access) HL 1988
The local authority sought to terminate parental contact with a child taken into care under a wardship.
Held: The court had to consider the human rights of the parent as against the welfare interest of the child. Lord Oliver of Aylmerton said: . .
CitedRe J (A Child), Re (Child returned abroad: Convention Rights); (Custody Rights: Jurisdiction) HL 16-Jun-2005
The parents had married under shariah law. They left the US to return to the father’s home country Saudi Arabia. They parted, and the mother brought their son to England against the father’s wishes and in breach of an agreement. The father sought . .
CitedCG v CW and Another (Children) CA 6-Apr-2006
A lesbian couple had split up and disputed the care of the children. An order had been made but then, in breach of that order, one removed the children overnight to Cornwall. An argument was made that the court had failed to give proper weight to . .
CitedIn Re G (A Minor) (Interim Care Order: Residential Assessment); G (Children), In Re (Residence: Same Sex Partner) HL 26-Jul-2006
The parties had been a lesbian couple each with children. Each now was in a new relationship. One registered the two daughters of the other at a school now local to her but without first consulting the birth mother, who then applied for residence . .
CitedPayne v Payne; P v P CA 13-Feb-2001
No presumption for Mother on Relocation
The mother applied for leave to return to New Zealand taking with the parties’ daughter aged four. The father opposed the move, saying that allowing the move would infringe his and the child’s right to family life. He had been refused residence.
CitedRe L (Psychologist – Duty To The Court) FD 20-Dec-2011
The court had made findings of non-accidental injury caused by the parents. A psychologist called in to assist the court was sympathetic to the parents invited the court to reconsider its findings of fact.
Held: The expert had gone beyond her . .
CitedOwens v Owens CA 24-Mar-2017
Unreasonable Behaviour must reach criteria
W appealed against the judge’s refusal to grant a decree of divorce. He found that the marriage had broken down irretrievably, but did not find that H had behaved iin such a way that she could not reasonably be expected to live with H.
Held: . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 19 June 2022; Ref: scu.211401