The best interests of the child
Children’s right to be heard and to make their own decisions
Article | Last updated: 28/01/2015 | Ministry of Children and Families
Children’s right to be heard and to make their own decisions is regulated in sections 31–33 of the Children Act. There may also be special provisions in other Acts concerning children’s right to be heard and to make their own decisions.
Before parents or other persons make decisions concerning a child’s personal situation, the child has a right to be informed and to be heard. This right applies from when the child is able to form its own point of view. Attention is to be paid to the opinions of the child according to the child’s age and maturity. When the child reaches the age of 12, the child’s opinion shall carry significant weight.
The Act adopts as a fundamental principle that the parents are to have complete freedom to agree on how to arrange their parental responsibility, on where the child will is to live permanently and on contact arrangements. However, the best interests of the child must be paramount in such agreements and decisions. What the best interests of the child are in a specific case is to be decided on the basis of an overall assessment. The solutions that are in the best interests of the child may change as the child grows older, and the parents must pay regard to the child’s needs. The Act states that attention shall be paid to the child’s opinion when assessing this. This is also stated in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. In the Children Act, the child-oriented perspective in parental disputes has been strengthened following the amendments that entered into force on 1 January 2014.