What is Cafcass?
The Child and Family Court Advisory Support Service, or Cafcass, sponsored by the Ministry of Justice, is a "non-departmental public body." Cafcass is an independent body with no direct connection with the court. Cafcass focuses on supporting and assisting children who might face difficulties in case proceedings. Formed in April 2001 as part of the Criminal Justice and Court Service Act, Cafcass continues to help several children.
The court appoints a Cafcass officer after you or your partner files a case and cannot reach an agreement. There are three principal conditions based on which Cafcass comes into effect. They are:
1. When parents cannot agree on where the child has to live, which comes under Private Law
2. When Social Services finds that there is a threat to a child's safety, which comes under Public Law
3. When it focuses on adoption, and it can come under either Private or Public Law
Under these circumstances, a court would appoint a Cafcass worker to ensure the child's wellbeing and safety. Cafcass workers would work based on the requirements provided by the court.
The Cafcass worker assigned to the case will meet with the child from their school, home, Cafcass office, or other convenient environments. Interviews might take place in the presence of the child's guardians or parents. Cafcass workers can also discuss with the child in the absence of their parents. Cafcass workers interact with the child's teachers too.
During the interview, the Cafcass worker would speak with the child and comprehend their perspective on the issue.
The report generated by the Cafcass worker plays a pivotal role in Section Seven of the Children's Act. The Cafcass officer will always work to ensure your child's welfare. By working with the child and the parents, the Cafcass worker can assist the child in many ways.
Why is a Cafcass Section Seven Report Needed in Child Proceedings?
For a case that involves a child's proceedings, a Cafcass Section report is essential. A Cafcass worker will generate it based on enquiries made with the child by the worker. The Cafcass worker will consider the child's wishes. However, he or she will not ask the child to make any final decision.
The court's final decision will focus on the Section Seven report submitted by the concerned Cafcass worker. It is because it will present the child's concerns and problems.
Apart from that, the report will have sufficient information on the findings made by the officer. It will also convey recommendations prioritizing the child's situation and have other crucial details that the court has to consider as part of the case. The Section Seven report is essential under three different matters. They include:
1. If there is a dispute on with whom the child has to live or who can contact the child, a Section Seven report is pertinent. It comes under the Child Arrangement Order.
2. If a parent decides for his or her child without receiving permission from the other parent, it is essential to have a Section Seven report. It comes under the Prohibited Steps Order.
3. It is also necessary while parents decide over a particular matter.
With a Section Seven report, the court can make the final decision after completely understanding the child's perspective. It will always consider the child's best interest.
What Happens Once a Section Seven Report gets prepared?
After preparing the Section Severn report by the Cafcass worker, the Dispute Resolution Appointment (DRA) will conduct a discussion based on the report.
The report prepared by the Cafcass worker will have the required pieces of information after conversing with the child, parents and teachers. You will know about the issue that the Cafcass officer will discuss with your child beforehand. It is because the judge would explain it in court while appointing the Cafcass worker.
After the submission of the report, the court will analyse it thoroughly. The judge will make the final decision based on the Cafcass worker's report. Before coming to a judgement, the judge would hear what others have to say on the matter. After scrutinizing all the details, the court will decide based on the child's wishes. However, it may not be what the child wants. The last judgement will focus on the child's welfare. Once the judge decides, it becomes a court order that has to be adhered to by the parents.
What are Social Services, and how can they prepare a Section Seven Report?
Social Services are authorities who endeavour to ensure that your child is safe. They work to protect children and assure their welfare. Social Services comes into play under different scenarios. It can either be due to referrals made by family members or teachers of a child. If police officers have found a child suffering violence and assault, they can bring it to their attention.
Apart from that, drug abuse in a family, and when a parent requests temporary foster care for a child, the court can then ask for a Section Seven report from a Social Service worker.
The Social Service worker would prepare the report after consulting with the child. The report is necessary for cases that pertain to Section eight of the Children's Act. It will delve deeper into the information to ensure the concerned child's welfare.
Social Service workers will also highlight the threats and risks concerning a child's wellbeing. Social Service workers will bring all their findings to the attention of the court. It will assist the judge in deciding based on the best interests of the child.
Do I have to agree to a Section Seven report?
A Section Seven report prepared by a Cafcass worker is highly influential. Even though the Cafcass worker has relevant experience in the field, the person might make a mistake. It is because each child and their family circumstances are unique.
If you have disagreements with the Section Seven report, the best thing to do is present your concerns in front of your family court. However, before you do that, you can seek advice from your legal advisor. When you raise your issue in court, you have to provide valid reasons that substantiate your statement.
The court will consider both the dimensions presented by the parent and the Cafcass worker. Even though a Cafcass worker can be highly influential, you can always convey your disagreements to the court. The fundamental reason behind this is that the judge makes the judgement, which would value the child's safety and wellbeing.
What happens if I cannot agree with the parts of the Section Seven report?
Sometimes you may not reach an agreement with certain parts of the Section Seven report. It could be factual mistakes or opinions presented by the Cafcass worker after the interview. If you are unhappy with the parts of the report, you can convey the issue to the judge. The judge will look into the matter you have mentioned before making the final verdict on the case.
However, you can discuss the disagreements before you bring them to court with the concerned Cafcass worker. If you find some factual mistakes in the report, it is best to convey it to your Cafcass worker. Factual errors are things that occur often. It could be a correction in the name, place, or date of birth. The Cafcass worker can correct them before submitting the final report to the court.
If you find mistakes in the final report's information, you can convey it to the family court. However, you have to review it thoroughly before addressing it before the court. You can also discuss this with your legal advisor so that you can find the right way to present your issue in front of the court. Through this, you could receive a response based on the inaccuracies you have pointed out.
How to tackle issues with a Section Seven report?
There might be issues with the Section Seven report. You have to address them to ensure that your child's welfare does not get compromised. You can understand the problem, if any, in the Section Seven report while you receive it for review. If there are any factual issues with the report, it is better to convey it to the concerned Cafcass worker.
If it is not a factual error, you can note it down and present it in front of the court. However, before you do that, it would be beneficial to seek advice from your legal advisor. The court will make the final decision after considering both aspects by prioritizing the child's best interest.
Can I challenge a Section Seven report?
Many parents believe they cannot challenge a Section Seven report. However, you can question it by presenting your issue in front of the court. You can also raise a complaint about it to the concerned Cafcass worker. There are two ways to address your disagreement with the Cafcass worker. You can either convey this during the interview with the Cafcass worker or when you receive the report for review.
Before you bring the problem in front of the family court, you can always present it to your Cafcass worker. However, it is better to do it if the issue deals with factual inaccuracies. If it deals with other factors, you can present it before the court during the hearing. You can request the court to bring forward the Cafcass worker who has written the report. The court can ask the Cafcass worker to update or revise the document. Along with that, your legal advisor can cross-examine the Cafcass worker as well. The court could even appoint another officer to look into the matter at hand.
What happens when I challenge the Cafcass report?
As mentioned, there are two ways to challenge a Cafcass report. If you have presented it via court, the judge will look into it and decide by considering your opinion. However, the final verdict will focus on the child. Sometimes, the court can ask the Cafcass worker to update the report. The judge can also change your Cafcass worker. These are a few things that can happen when you challenge the Cafcass report.
What happens if I cannot agree with the Section Seven report?
If you cannot agree with the Section Section report, the best thing to do is raise your concern and challenge the report.
It is because the report has an integral role to play in assisting the judge in understanding the child's wishes and wants. If you fail to address the issue with the court, it can harm the child.
Once you address the issue, the court will look into the matter before making a final decision. The court could also request that the Cafcass worker revise the report. By doing this, you can ensure that your child receives a judgement that complies with their best interests.
Is it possible to dispute a Section Seven report?
Yes, you can dispute a Section Seven report. There are two different ways by which you can challenge a Section Seven report. First, you can present your complaint in front of the court. Second, you can address it in front of the court.
Based on the issue you have raised, the court will duly consider it while analysing the case. It will assist them in making a judgement that is fair to your child. However, it may not always be what your child wants. Thus, you can challenge a Section Seven report prepared by a Cafcass worker if you disagree with the information presented by him or her.