23 March 2017, by Taylor King Family Law Solicitors
CAFCASS stands for the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. It is separate from the court service and provides expertise to the court when required.
When an application is made to the court for a child arrangement or other order in respect of a child or children, CAFCASS will initially undertake safeguarding checks on the parents with social services and the police. These enquiries are to ascertain whether or not the parents have criminal convictions, are on the sex offenders list, there are issues of domestic violence and any involvement of social services in the lives of the children. CAFCASS will speak to the parents over the telephone to determine the reason for the application and write a short report.
At the first hearing called a FDHRA, a CAFCASS officer will meet both parents at court to discuss the case and make recommendations to the court. If issues arise which affect the welfare of the child/children, the court can order CAFCASS to create a report.
The recommendations of CAFCASS will have a significant influence on the eventual outcome of the case. Parents often accept the recommendations in the report.
The CAFCASS officer is appointed by the court. Parents are often unhappy about the conclusions in the report. It is not possible to change the appointed CAFCASS officer, however, if a parent has serious concerns then they can make a complaint against the officer using the CAFCASS complaints procedure.
In a limited number of cases, after concerns have been raised, either CAFCASS or the court will appoint a new CAFCASS officer.
The court is under no obligation to follow the recommendations of the CAFCASS officer in their report. It is a matter of judicial discretion. The overriding consideration is what is in the best interests of the child/children.
A parent can ask the court to order the author of the CAFCASS report to attend to give evidence. At the hearing, the CAFCASS officer will be cross-examined. If the cross-examination raises concerns about short comings in the report, the court may be influenced to go against the proposals of the CAFCASS officer.
We acted in behalf of a father seeking contact with his son. The original recommendation of the CAFCASS officer was that he should not have direct contact with the child. This recommendation had been made on the basis of allegations made by the mother against the father which were totally unfounded. This was later confirmed after a fact-finding hearing. The CAFCASS officer was removed from the case.
If you are experiencing problems with the arrangements for your children, or would just like to find out more information about the issues raised above, please contact Nicola Dunkerley. Please call 0161 883 0460 or email Nicola.firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.