What is a Family Assistance Order?
Updated: Mar 12
Family Assistance Orders: The Basics
Family Assistance Order (FAO) is a short-term order under Section 16 of the Children Act 1989, which allows the court to pass an order requiring a CAFCASS officer or a local authority to guide, support, and befriend any person who has been named in the order.
The purpose of the order is to provide additional support to families who are going through a difficult time after separation or divorce. The order is mostly related to facilitating and monitoring the contract at the end.
When is the Family Assistance Order Required?
Family Assistance Order (FAO) is generally made when it’s difficult for the family to deal with issues regarding child contact without the interference of CAFCASS or the local authority.
The order is granted by the court at the end of the private law proceedings to settle the dispute between parents about the child.
It promotes arrangements for parents relating to child access and improves the child’s relationship with the parents or other family members from whom the child may have become alienated.
An identified officer from Cafcass or a social worker from the local authority will be appointed to provide helpful advice and support. They also communicate with children and offer every possible help.
For more information about Cafcass, read a detailed article here.
How to Decide when a Family Assistance Order is Suitable?
According to the CAFCASS guidance, the following criteria must be considered while deciding through the suitability of Family Assistance Order for a case:
Whether the safety and welfare of the child could be improved with FAO.
Whether the issues in the disagreement can be identified, and if an attainable target will be given which is appropriate for a family order.
Whether the parents/parties involved are ready to give consent to the order and cooperate with the order and the officer in charge.
Whether the child can express their feelings and wishes regarding what they would like to happen.
Whether the parents can differentiate their feelings from the needs of the child to make FAO a suitable arrangement.
Whether the practical outcomes of the order are beneficial for the child and can be identified.
Whether the goal of the FAO can be achieved without Cafcass or local authorities report.
Whether there are any other resources available than Cafcass that could help make FAO successful for the child and family.
Who Can be Named in the Family Assistance Order?
Any one of the following with whom child lives can be named in the order:
Anyone with an order for contact with the child
A CAFCASS officer or Local Authority
A family assistance order (FAO) is an important order that generally the court may not make without the consent of every person (other than any child or children) named in the order.
Who Can Apply for a Family Assistance Order?
The Family assistance Order can only be made when every person named in the order has given their consent or when a judge considers the case appropriate enough for an FAO rather than when a parent makes a formal application.
The orders are usually made at the suggestion of CAFCASS or the judge who believes that parents and children in a particular case need some focused support.
One cannot apply for FAO as a freestanding order. However, you may ask the Court to consider making an FAO while another order is applied for such as Contact Enforcement Order or Child Arrangements Order.
What is the Duration of the Family Assistance Order?
Typically, Family Assistance Order lasts up to 12 months. However, the length of the order must be specified by the Court and it could be even shorter than 12-months.
How Does the Family Assistance Order Work?
Generally, Family Assistance Orders tend to be made in a private law proceeding as a result of a recommendation in the Section 7 report.
If a CAFCASS officer or a local authority officer has worked with the family previously, they will likely be appointed again to help the family with the FAO to assist the family in identifying what support they’ll require, consequences of the final order and can act as someone to who the child can speak to.
A clear plan of action is usually drawn up and shared with the parties and the Court to make sure everyone knows the purpose of FAO and the role of the officer appointed. If any other order including the Child Arrangement order is already in existence, FAO can be made alongside it. You can check out our detailed article on how to fill Child Arrangement form by clicking here.
Once the FAO is made, a meeting is held to plan what needs to be done for the arrangement to be successful. After the order ends, a brief written review shall be prepared by the appointed CAFCASS officer or social worker outlining the events that occurred during the period of the order. A copy of the report is then provided to all those named in the order.
How to Make Family Assistance Order Effective?
Here are some key factors that can contribute to making FAO work well:
· Clear and well-thought plan of action shared out with parties involved and the Court.
· Prioritises issues that have been previously assessed but parties have failed to move forward.
· The risks involved have been assessed and a plan to manage them is already in place.
· Parties support an arrangement in principle but the child needs extra support.
· Time limitation, as the FAOs are most effective during the 3-6 months period.
How Can We Help?
At Court Help Limited, we specialize in helping our clients in family court matters by drafting applications and statements. Our legal team will assist you through the paperwork and documentation, providing you with the highest standard of court representation to achieve the right outcome as quickly as possible.
We pride ourselves on providing excellent customer service at affordable prices which makes us the law firm of choice when it comes to dealing with all aspects of child and family law.
Please do note that this article is NOT legal advice and should NOT be treated as legal advice.
Contact us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 07375757510