Child and parent holding hands

In situations where parents cannot agree on the best arrangements for their children, the court may direct the preparation of a section 7 (s.7) report. This report is typically undertaken by a Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) officer or a social worker and involves meetings with both parents and sometimes the children.

Introduction to CAFCASS

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) plays a crucial role in family court proceedings involving children in England and Wales. CAFCASS officers are responsible for advising the Family Court about what is safe for children and in their best interests and making recommendations to the court about the best arrangements for their care. Given the significant impact these recommendations can have, it is essential for parents to adequately prepare for their meetings with CAFCASS.

Understanding the section 7 report

The s.7 report is an independent assessment provided to the court, detailing the situation and making recommendations about the best arrangements for the child.

Its primary purpose is to offer an impartial evaluation of the child’s welfare, considering their circumstances and care arrangements. It may also provide information about any risk factors or concerns related to the child, parent, or other relatives. It may also relay the ascertainable wishes of the child.

The report will assess the parent-child relationship, the emotional and physical health of the child, and any factors impacting their wellbeing. The guiding principle is the best interests of the child, and recommendations are based on this perspective.

The role of the report in court proceedings

While the recommendations in the s.7 report are not binding, the court generally follows them unless there is a compelling reason to deviate. If the case proceeds to a final hearing, the report’s author may give evidence, and both parents will have an opportunity to challenge the recommendations if they disagree.

Preparing for the meeting

Preparing for a meeting with CAFCASS is a critical step in ensuring the best possible outcome for your child and that any concerns you have are heard. By understanding the purpose of the s.7 report and following these guidelines, you can present your case effectively and demonstrate your commitment to your child’s welfare.

  • Review documents: Ensure the CAFCASS officer has read all relevant statements and the case bundle. Stress the importance of understanding the background. Ensure the CAFCASS officer is well-informed about the case background by reviewing all documents.
  • Communication style: Avoid being dismissive or argumentative. The interviewer may not be familiar with the full history, so be patient and focused when explaining your position. Remain calm, patient, and clear in your communication. Take your time to address points and explain your position thoroughly.
  • Positive approach: Do not hesitate to mention positives about the other parent. Avoid unnecessary negative comments. Highlight positive aspects about the other parent and avoid unnecessary negativity.
  • Child-focused: Maintain a child-centric approach in all discussions and keep discussions centred on the child’s best interests.
  • Relationship history: Be ready to discuss your involvement with the children and your relationship with them. Demonstrate your knowledge of their interests and needs. Be prepared to discuss your relationship and history with the child, including their likes and preferences.
  • Handling allegations: If there are allegations or safeguarding concerns, explain your position robustly but sensitively. Address any allegations or concerns thoughtfully and sensitively, showing understanding and a willingness to accept justified criticism.
  • Proposals and arrangements: Remember that the report’s purpose is not to determine the truth of any allegations. Demonstrating an understanding and insight into the child’s needs can be beneficial. Clearly outline your proposals for the child’s living arrangements, including details for term time, holidays, birthdays, religious festivals, and special occasions. Explain why your proposals are in the best interest of the child.

Our expert lawyers are skilled in preparation for a CAFCASS meeting and can provide further insights on this matter. Contact us to speak to one of our family law solicitors.