Putting children and young people first in the family courts

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Cafcass' role in divorce and separation

 

If your case is referred to us by the courts, we will provide the information needed for a safe decision to be made about the arrangements for your children. We will try to help you and the other adult (who is called a party) reach a safe agreement about your children.

 

When does Cafcass get involved

 

Cafcass can only become involved in a case at the request of the court.

After the court has received the application from either you or the other party, the court will usually refer the case to us. 

We are running pilots in some areas to help signpost parents to appropriate services.

 

What happens after you receive a letter from us


Before the first hearing, we will usually do the following:

    • Safeguarding checks - we carry out checks with the police and the local authority to find out whether there are any known safety or welfare risks to your children. 

  • Telephone interview - in most cases, we phone you and the other party to find out if either of you have any concerns about the safety and welfare of your children. 


This phone call may be made close to the hearing date, so don’t worry if you don’t hear from us immediately after receiving our introductory letter.


At the first court hearing


The aim of the first hearing is to see whether it is possible for you and the other party to make a safe agreement about your children which the court can then endorse.

There will usually be a Cafcass worker at the court who will often be asked by the court to meet separately with you and the other party to try to help you reach an agreement and to find out:

    • whether there are any areas of concern, such as allegations or findings of domestic violence or child protection concerns

    • what you can agree on 

  • what you still disagree about.


If you and the other party can reach an agreement, and the court is satisfied that this is safe and in your children’s best interests, it may be possible to end the process at this stage by making a ‘consent order’.


After the first court hearing


If you are not able to agree, or there are concerns about the welfare of your children, the court may:

    • ask us to carry out more detailed work with your family and to write a report about your children’s welfare (known as a section 7 report)

    • order a ‘finding of fact’ hearing if there have been allegations of domestic violence that might affect the outcome of the case 


 

What will the court decide


The court will make the final decision about what should happen to your children after reading the Cafcass worker’s report and listening to what you and other people in the case have said.

The court will pay particular attention to your children’s wishes and feelings but may not always do what your children want.

The court will make a decision based on what it thinks is best for your children. The court’s decision is set out in a ‘court order’ which you must stick to.

If you are not happy with the court’s decision, you must raise this at court – you cannot make a complaint to us about the court’s decision.

Throughout the whole process the Cafcass worker will be able to answer any questions you may have.


More information 

Working with you and your children - our video featuring other parents and Cafcass workers

Putting your children first - our divorce and separation factsheet 

Support and advice for families going through divorce or separation

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