Cafcass publishes new tips from its Family Forum for parents and professionals involved in the family court
Cafcass has today published a new range of accessible advice for parents and professionals involved in family court proceedings. The ‘top tips’ have been written by the Family Forum established by Cafcass in September 2021 as part of its ambition to listen more closely to what families say about their experiences of Cafcass’ work with them.
The Cafcass Family Forum comprises a group of parents, carers and extended family members who have had direct experience of family court proceedings. Their purpose is to help Cafcass to understand how families experience proceedings and to use that learning to influence and improve the effectiveness of practice. This includes working with Cafcass to review and improve information and resources available to families going through the family courts.
For parents involved in private law court proceedings (where arrangements are agreed for children after parents have divorced or separated), the Cafcass Family Forum members have devised ten top tips for separating parents to help them think about how they can minimise the damaging impact of separation and court proceedings on their children. These tips include:
- Court proceedings should be the last resort. Court can be expensive and you may not get the desired outcome. Think of other ways to resolve the issues such as mediation before going to court.
- When the important adults have good communication with each other, the child can see that they have their best interests at heart.
- If your child is struggling emotionally, speak to professionals and seek support from their school or GP.
You can read the full list of tips for parents involved in private law family court proceedings here and there is more information for separating parents here on the Cafcass website.
For parents involved in public law proceedings (where a local authority has serious concerns about the safety or welfare of a child) the top tips focus on providing advice to parents on how they can work positively with children’s guardians and other professionals. These tips include:
- The professionals working with your family will be trying to make the best and safest recommendations to the family court for your children. It is important to work with all the professionals involved, including the children’s guardian.
- When attending court hearings or meetings with professionals, you may find it useful to write things down so that you don’t forget. Don’t be afraid to ask any questions that make things clearer to you.
- If the factual information (information relating to facts and not professional judgement) written about you is not correct, let the children’s guardian know. They will correct the information.
You can read the full list of tips for parents involved in public law family court proceedings here.
Members of the Cafcass Family Forum have also produced tips for children’s guardians working with parents in public law proceedings, where Family Forum members – based on their own experiences – offer their views on what they consider best practice for children’s guardians. You can read these tips here.
The new Cafcass Family Forum tips support and enhance those already published by the Family Justice Young People’s Board (FJYPB). The FJYPB tips are those from children and young people who have been involved in the family court and are, of course, central to the work undertaken by Cafcass. The FJYPB work provides a very important perspective for parents and professionals. The tips can be found here: Family Justice Young People’s Board Top Tips for parents who are separated and the Family Justice Young People’s Board Top Tips for professionals.
Cafcass Family Forum Manager, Jennifer Okoro-Thompson, said:
“The Family Forum members have worked with us to share their experiences and write these top tips to help other families who will experience family court. These tips are taken from their personal experience and serve as valuable advice for other families who find themselves in this situation.
“We value and appreciate the Family Forum members’ effort and support in this work.”
Cafcass Chief Executive, Jacky Tiotto, said:
“Thanks to these contributions from our Family Forum members, we are learning how to listen and reflect on our work so that it makes the most positive difference to children involved. I say often when we launch these sorts of materials, that family court proceedings are distressing for families and children and we need to do our very best to make sure that we are thinking about how it feels from their perspective, whilst making sure we take the time to explain our thinking and advice to the court. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to publish the Cafcass Family Forum Top Tips and I hope they help other families, children and professionals if they become involved in the family court.”