Written by Mark Leeson

Mark qualified in 1990. He trained as a family mediator in 1995 and was accredited by the Family Mediators Association. He has been an Accredited Resolution Specialist since 2002 and a Collaborative Lawyer since 2007. He specialises in family, wills and inheritance disputes.

Cafcass stands for Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. Cafcass is separate from the Court Service itself but provides expertise to the Court when required. When a children application is made to the Court Cafcass will initially undertake a safeguarding check on the parents which includes a criminal records check. They will usually try and speak to both parents and then provide a short report to the Court on any issues which arise.

In some cases where the issues are complicated and the Cafcass Officer has been unhelpful it may be possible to ask the Court to make the children a party to the proceedings.

At the First Hearing a Cafcass Officer (who will have a social work background) will meet with both parents and make recommendations to the Court as to next steps. If no issues emerge which create a concern about the children’s welfare then it is likely that Cafcass will have no ongoing involvement in the proceedings before the Court.

If however issues do arise which affect the welfare of the children then the Court can order that Cafcass prepare a report on the issues and make recommendations to the Court about the most appropriate arrangements for the children. These recommendations will have a significant influence on the eventual outcome of the application.

The Cafcass Officer is appointed by the Court. It is not possible to change the Cafcass Officer because you do not agree with the conclusions they have reached. If you do not agree with the recommendations that the Cafcass Officer has made it is possible to challenge their conclusions in the Court.

If you have a concern about a Cafcass Officer’s performance or conduct whilst undertaking their duties Cafcass have a complaints procedure and there is a useful fact sheet on their website at www.cafcass.co.uk. However it will still be the decision of Cafcass or of the Court as to whether a Cafcass Officer’s performance or conduct is such that they should be removed from the case.

In some cases where the issues are complicated and the Cafcass Officer has been unhelpful it may be possible to ask the Court to make the children a party to the proceedings. If that order is made the Court will appoint a guardian. The guardian also comes from Cafcass however the guardian’s role is to represent the children’s position and can therefore provide an alternative view to that of the Cafcass Officer.

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Do you have concerns about your Cafcass officer?

As the article above shows, this can be difficult to resolve. Explaining your concerns in a considered way to the Officer in question may be useful. Having a chat though the issues with one of our Panel members may also be a sensible thing to do beforehand. ...

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