Spencer tells us how his experience in the family courts and with Cafcass helped him to create a better relationship with his children.
“I met my ex-partner whilst I was out in Germany with the army. It’s fair to say that our relationship hadn’t always been perfect. We argued a lot over parenting styles; because of my military background, I was quite strict with our boys and my partner’s daughter from a previous relationship.
“Prior to the breakdown of my relationship, I was a really hands-on dad, I loved my kids and spending time with them. Looking back, maybe my flaw was that I was sometimes too strict with them, something that came from the military discipline ingrained in me. When my relationship broke down I separated from my partner but we couldn’t agree on contact with the children, so our case went to court and that’s when Cafcass got involved.
“When Cafcass first got in touch, if I’m honest, I was really resentful of them. I had no idea who they were and all I could think was that they wanted to meddle in my situation and get in the way of my relationship with my kids.
“At that time, I was full of raw emotion. I was dealing with a lot, the breakdown of my relationship and the thought of losing my children and I didn’t want someone like Cafcass telling me what to do. But that couldn’t have been further from what happened. My practitioner was fantastic. She was totally impartial but at the same time she had a really friendly approach. The way she dealt with my situation really helped, it would have been much harder without that.
“Cafcass really listened to me and my side of the story. It’s not just a faceless organisation, the practitioners really take the time to get to know you, they don’t speak with airs and graces, they are just really honest people. They helped me to see what needed to change in my relationship with my children, I realised I wasn’t perfect, but what parent is?
“Where Cafcass was invaluable to me as a parent was with the rebuilding of the fractured relationship with my sons post-breakup. They guided me through what was a very difficult process and helped me to understand how my sons were feeling in their new environment and how best to navigate to a relationship given the harsh reality of the situation.
“If Cafcass has just got in touch with you, my advice would be – don’t prejudge them. Take a step back, count to ten and listen to your practitioner. They don’t want to intrude on your life and this isn’t something that will go on for a long time. If you are totally honest with them, they will help you 100% of the way.
“Like I said for Cafcass to be truly effective you have to have been totally honest with yourself and those around you. My sons and my relationship was already a strong bond but I needed Lisa and Rachael’s [my practitioners] stellar approach and directions to help me back to where I wanted to be. I couldn’t be more grateful to Cafcass and in fact as a result of their involvement and the whole process, I now have a blossoming relationship with my children. It’s been a real journey but without Cafcass’ help, I really would have been ‘up the creek’.”