When the court receives an application, they will refer the case to us and set a date for the ‘first hearing’ (sometimes referred to as FHDRA - this stands for 'the First Hearing and Dispute Resolution Appointment').
Before the first hearing, we will usually do the following:
Before the first hearing we will provide the court with a short report on the outcomes of the safeguarding checks and any phone interviews with you and the other party, this is known as a safeguarding letter.
Cafcass will undertake safeguarding checks on the adult parties with the local authority and the police. We ask the relevant local authority whether either of the adult parties, or any subject children, are known to them.
We will also check whether any caution or conviction information is held on the Police National Computer about the adult parties.
The purpose of the telephone interview is to establish if there are any concerns about your child's safety or wellbeing.
You are unlikely to have a home visit before the first hearing.
Only people who are parties to the case will be interviewed. If one of the parties wants to submit a statement from a third person, then they can do so and it becomes part of their case.
The safeguarding letter is used in private law cases to inform the court, at the first hearing, of all relevant information that Cafcass has obtained. This will include the outcome of the safeguarding checks, and information provided by the parties during the risk screening telephone calls.
Cafcass is expected to file the safeguarding letter with the court at least three days before the first court hearing.
The court may ask Cafcass to provide an update to a safeguarding letter if information comes to light after the filing of the first letter, or after the first hearing.
The court will agree proportionate timescales for an update to be made. However, as a matter of good practice, Cafcass will aim to file any report at least three days before any hearing where safeguarding information is required by the court.