What is the Role of Cafcass if we go to Court?
Alot of people ask ‘what is the role CAFCASS if we go to court regarding our child arrangements?’ CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) is an independent organisation in the UK that provides advice to courts and assists in making decisions about the welfare of children involved in family court proceedings.
“Our duty is to safeguard and promote the welfare of children going through the family justice system, supporting over 140,000 children every year by understanding their experiences and speaking up for them when the family court makes critical decisions about their futures.” – Cafcass
WHY WOULD THE COURT INVOLVE CAFCASS?
Overall, Cafcass plays a crucial role in family court proceedings by providing advice and support to the court. They are there to ensure that the welfare of the child is the paramount consideration.
In certain cases, after a hearing, a judge may find it necessary to involve Cafcass to do some additional work with you and your child/children. This is so they can help the court decide what will be best for your family. It is usually in high-conflict cases where parents are having difficulty reaching an agreement regarding child arrangements.
Cafcass may become involved in the following ways:
Cafcass may carry out an assessment to provide recommendations to the court regarding the child’s welfare. This may include who the child should live with and the arrangements for contact with the other parent.
Cafcass may provide reports to the court about the child’s views on the situation, as well as their wishes and feelings. They may also provide a summary of any other relevant information, such as medical reports, school records, and police reports.
Cafcass may represent the child in court proceedings, particularly if the child is too young or vulnerable to speak for themselves.
WILL CAFCASS WANT TO SEE WHERE I LIVE?
It is possible that a Cafcass advisor will want to visit your home and see where you live. They will typically want to see the living conditions. This will inculde the child’s bedroom and any other areas of the home that are relevant to the child’s care and well-being.
They may also want to speak with you and any other adults who live in the home. As well as any other individuals who have regular contact with the child.
It’s important to note that Cafcass visits are not intended to be intrusive or judgmental. One of the key roles of Cafcass, is to carry out assessments of the child’s welfare. This includes considering the child’s living arrangements.
If Cafcass does want to visit your home, they will usually arrange this with you in advance. A mutually convenient time will be agreed. Cafcass officers are trained to be sensitive to the needs of children and families. They will aim to carry out their assessments in a supportive and respectful way.
WILL CAFFCASS WANT TO TALK TO MY CHILD?
One of the main roles of Cafcass is to ensure that the child’s views and wishes are considered. They may meet with your child, depending on the circumstances.
Cafcass will generally seek to meet with the child as part of their assessment process. Particularly if the child is old enough and mature enough to express their views. There is no set rule on the age, as each child is different. But from eight years plus it is more likely to be a consideration. The purpose of the meeting is to listen to the child’s views and feelings about their situation, as well as to gather any other relevant information that may be helpful to the court.
Cafcass officers are trained professionals who understand the importance of communicating with children in a way that is appropriate for their age and understanding.
If Cafcass does meet with your child, they will aim to make the experience as comfortable and supportive as possible. They will explain to the child why they are meeting with them, what they will be discussing, and how the child’s views will be taken into account.
CAFCASS AND MEDIATION
Some people ask if mediation is still an option even if Cafcass is involved?
The short answer is yes, you can still consider family mediation as an option. In fact, mediation is usually recommended by the courts – and Cafcass – as a way to resolve disputes outside of court. This can reduce the emotional impact of court proceedings on children.
Family Mediation can be a helpful way to address a range of family issues, including finances and child arrangements. If you want the children to have a voice, then Child Inclusive Mediation (CIM) can be helpful to the process. A trained family mediator can help facilitate a constructive discussion between you both and work to help reach an agreement that is agreeable to everyone involved.
It will impress the court if you are able to reach an agreement on any matter and there are currently £500 in government vouchers available to put towards child mediation cases.
If Cafcass is already involved in your case, you should discuss your options for mediation with your solicitor or the Cafcass officer. They may be able to provide you with more information about the benefits of mediation and refer you to a reputable mediation service in your area.
It’s worth noting, that mediation is not always suitable in cases where there are serious concerns about the safety or well-being of the child (or one of the parties involved). In such cases, it may be necessary to continue with court proceedings, with the guidance and support of Cafcass.
The Government website summarises it quite plainly:
“Cafcass looks after the interests of children involved in family proceedings. It is independent of the courts and social services but works under the rules of the Family Court and legislation to work with children and their families, and then advise the courts on what is considered to be in the best interests of individual children.”
Cafcass is an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Ministry of Justice.
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