Many of our clients who become involved in court proceedings of any sort concerning the arrangements for children will encounter CAFCASS officers. So the question may well arise what or who is CAFCASS?
CAFCASS stands for Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, which was formed in 2001 to represent the interests of children and young persons in cases before family courts in England.
Importantly, CAFCASS is completely independent to all the other parties in the case, not only from the parents, but also from local authorities. CAFCASS therefore can and do focus on the needs, wishes and feelings of the children in the case and their duty is to safeguard and promote the welfare of these children. CAFCASS supports over 140,000 children and young people every year. CAFCASS is the largest employer of qualified social workers in England.
The experienced family court advisers and guardians working for CAFCASS may be asked by the court to work with families and provide the court with advice on what is considered to be in the best interests of the children and young people who are at the centre of the case. They work in three main areas:-
1. Divorce and separation – where parents or carers cannot agree on arrangements for their children.
2. Care proceedings – where a local authority has serious concerns about the safety of welfare of a child.
3. Adoption proceedings – which can arise from either of the above.
The experience of solicitors within our family department suggests that in the vast majority of cases the recommendations which CAFCASS makes to the court are accepted and acted upon by Magistrates and Judges. We always advise our clients therefore to cooperate fully and form a good working relationship with any CAFCASS adviser or guardian working on the case, as not doing so will almost invariably reduce the prospects of achieving a favourable outcome.