Cafcass is an independent organisation looking after the interests of children involved in family proceedings. Cafcass works with children and their families and advises the court on what it considers to be in the children’s best interests. Its workers are experienced qualified social workers with no bias towards any gender of parent. The organisation is risk orientated.
In cases relating to child contact disputes, Cafcass will usually carry out safeguarding checks prior to the first hearing. This will involve them contacting the police and local authority to see if there are any known safeguarding or welfare concerns about the children. Cafcass will also usually speak to each parent (usually by telephone) to give them an opportunity to explain any safeguarding or welfare concerns which they have. Preparation for this conversation is important as it can determine the path the case will take and we can prepare you for this.
Cafcass will then prepare a safeguarding letter; this is a short report which Cafcass make available to the court containing the outcomes of the safeguarding checks and any potential welfare issues which have been identified. The safeguarding letter is usually made available to the court at least three days prior to the hearing.
At the First Hearing the court will decide the future role of Cafcass in the proceedings. If there are no welfare concerns then a Cafcass officer may still be involved to try to assist the parties in coming to an agreement with minimal further court proceedings. If parents are unable to reach an agreement, or there are welfare concerns, then the Cafcass officer may be asked to carry out further work with the family and prepare a more detailed report on the welfare issues.
If this is directed, a Cafcass officer will prepare this report after meeting with both parties and the child (alone where possible and only if the child has sufficient maturity and understanding). This is called a Section 7 Report.
When writing this report the Cafcass officer will be looking specifically at the Welfare Checklist.
The Cafcass report will be sent to the court, and a copy will be sent to all parties unless directed otherwise by the court.
The court will normally follow the recommendations in the report unless it can give good reasons why it has not.
We can prepare you for your Cafcass interview and help you to present your case in the best light. You will appreciate how important this is. Our experience is that parents rarely feel that sufficient time or thought is given to this process and advice and representation can make a significant difference to the Cafcass officer’s understanding of your position, and therefore the outcome.
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To arrange your free first diagnostic interview please do get in touch.