If you are a party in Children Act proceedings it is likely that the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) will have an involvement in your case.  Cafcass is an independent organisation which provides advice to the Family Court about the welfare of a child and what is in their best interests. Cafcass provides an unbiased and impartial view about a situation and will assist in determining the outcome of Family Court disputes.

In private law proceedings, those where there is a dispute between family members, Cafcass will initially be ordered by the Court to complete a ‘Safeguarding Letter’, usually prior to the first hearing. This letter will detail the current arrangements for the child, the outcome of the safeguarding checks, (which includes information obtained from the police and the local authority), details of discussions had in interviews with the parties and any welfare issues raised. Cafcass will conclude their letter with their recommendations regarding the next steps the Court should take.

If safeguarding issues are raised, Cafcass may recommend that the Court order a section 7 report to be undertaken. A section 7 report is a detailed report, undertaken by a Cafcass Family Court Advisor (or a social worker in some circumstances), which outlines the background information, circumstances of the child, a summary of the disputed issues, safety and welfare concerns, the findings following an interview with the parties and the child and the recommendations to the order that the Court should make.

When preparing their report, a Cafcass Family Court Advisor will also ascertain the child’s wishes and feelings and consider these in accordance with the welfare checklist. The Cafcass Family Court Advisor may also speak to other people involved in the child’s life, such as teachers or other family members. Whilst the recommendations of the report do not have to be agreed by the parties nor the Court, the general position of the Court is to follow the recommendations unless there are compelling reasons not to.

In public law proceedings, in which the local authority is the applicant, or in some private law proceedings, the Court will appoint a Children’s Guardian from Cafcass to be the voice of the child in the proceedings by obtaining their wishes and feelings. The Children’s Guardian will consider the key issues in the case and scrutinise the evidence to identify any gaps and ensure the existing or proposed plan meets the child’s needs. The Children’s Guardian will also appoint a solicitor, from the Law Society’s Children Law Accreditation scheme, to represent the child and the solicitor will receive instructions from the Children’s Guardian.  The court will be provided with a report from the Children’s Guardian in the form of a case analysis which sets out their recommendation for what should happen for the child.

If you require any assistance regarding child arrangements, please contact Ringrose Law who will be more than happy to assist. Call 0333 3580 393 or visit one of our offices.


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