At PMC Family Law we are experiencing an increasing number of client’s seeking advice in respect of disputes relating to contact arrangements for their children. Many more parents are seemingly finding it difficult to reach an agreement between themselves. It is extremely important that any child is able to sustain a loving and enjoyable relationship with both parents and indeed this is promoted by the Court.
It is however understandable that in some instances this will be hard to maintain. There are many factors that may arise which cause relationships between parents to become strained and help from an external agency is required.
The welfare of the child is paramount to the Court and therefore it is not concerned with petty arguments between parents. Everything should remain child focused and each parent should be acting in the best interest of their child. When matters appear before the Court, CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Services) become involved and present the Court at the first hearing with a safeguarding letter. This sets out their recommendations for the progression of the case. At this hearing, the Court determines whether the involvement of CAFCASS is necessary in order to assist in resolving the issues.
Child contact interventions are programmes established and structured most commonly to reintroduce children to the non-resident parent. A service provider – ‘Core Assets’ states that they “are aimed at encouraging parents to listen to their child’s views and to approach contact in ways that meet the child’s needs”.
In order to secure a place on one of these programmes, one of the following will generally occur:
- Cafcass recommend the programme in a section 7 report (this is a report undertaken by a Cafcass Officer or Local Authority, providing a more in depth analysis of the case, the author will speak to the children and parents separately to gain an understanding of their expectations and wishes moving forward).
- Intervention is proposed and agreed between the parties and Cafcass agree to the same. A section 7 report will generally be completed following the programme coming to an end.
Cafcass ultimately have to agree to fund the programme and will refer cases to a specialist provider. Cafcass fund the programme for up to 12 hours which can be 8-10 weeks in duration. This is dependent on the needs of the children, the availability of the provider and local resources.
If CAFCASS recommend the parties to one of these programmes, an initial introductory meeting is conducted whereby some ground rules may be established between all those involved. Following this, the contact sessions, which are generally supervised, will commence. Feedback is often provided to the parents following the sessions discussing the positives and negatives of the contact. In circumstances where there has been no contact between the non-resident parent and the child for a while, there will be an individual meeting to ascertain the best way to safely reintroduce contact. This is to help parents maintain and improve the quality of the contact they have with their children and be able to make independent contact arrangements in the future.
The section 7 report is completed by a Cafcass Officer at the end of the programme is likely to summarise the sessions based on feedback from staff members at the service provider. Within their report, they will provide the Court with their recommendations for the future.
If you are experiencing difficulties with your ex-partner and do not appear to be able to come to any arrangements in respect of your children, do not hesitate to contact PMC Family Law Solicitors headed by Pauline McNamara. You can contact us on 0151 375 9968 or email .