What is CAFCASS?
CAFCASS stands for Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service.
CAFCASS is independent of the courts, social services, education and health authorities.
The role of CAFCASS is to give advice to the family courts as to what might be in the best interest of the children and also may in some cases provide representation for children in family cases. CAFCASS advises the family courts in England in what is considers to the best interests of individual children.
PLEASE NOTE: LEGAL SERVICES COMMISSION BECOMES LEGAL AID AGENCY ON 1.4.13
Usually CAFCASS officers are qualified and experienced social workers and they work exclusively in the family courts. Examples of matters that may be decided by the family courts where CAFCASS may be involved are as follows:-
- When children are subject to an application for care or supervision proceedings by social services (public law);
- When parents who are separating cannot agree on arrangements for their children (private law).
A CAFCASS officer may be asked to write a report advising the court for example (a) as to which parent the child should live with or; (b) arrangements for contact between the child and the non-resident parent.
Although the court is not bound by the recommendations of CAFCASS, the court will usually follow the recommendations of CAFCASS. Indeed if a court does not follow the recommendations of CAFCASS, the court will need to explain why the recommendations of CAFCASS have not been followed.
Some CAFCASS reports are thorough and detailed and can be quite lengthy. Others are poor and short. The difficulty for parents is that they do not know in advance which CAFCASS officer will be involved in their case. Like all professions, some CAFCASS officers are good, some are bad and some are hopeless. Usually, if a CAFCASS officer has been asked by the court to write a report, the CAFCASS officer will meet with both parents and will see the child with both parents. Depending on the age of the child, the CAFCASS officer may also meet with the child/children on their own.
Remember that CAFCASS officers generally are of the view that contact between children and both parents is in the child’s best interests. If you are a parent objecting to contact by another parent you need to have good reasons for objecting and you may find if beneficial to take legal advice.
CAFCASS officers, and indeed the Court, will generally be concerned if you make derogatory remarks about the other parent in front of the children.
For more information concerning CAFCASS, take a look at the government website www.cafcass.gov.uk