Support with making child arrangements
Have you received a leaflet from Cafcass or HMCTS about this new programme?
This programme is for cases in Greater Manchester where there has been application to the court, and where it is assessed safe to direct away from court.
The aim of the programme is to support parents/carers so they are able to come to an agreement about child arrangements as easily and quickly as possible.
If you have received a leaflet from Cafcass or HMCTS you don’t need to do anything yet. A Cafcass
worker will call you and confirm if your situation looks appropriate for the programme.
- Cafcass will do an initial assessment of your situation to see if it is appropriate and you’ll be asked to take part in a short online self-assessment questionnaire. We will only divert your case away from court if safe to do so.
- Both you and the other parent/carer will have a phone call with Cafcass to help better understand your situation.
- If your situation is considered suitable we will then establish a package from the services listed below for you to consider and complete.
- If you are able to come to an agreement with the help of these services before your first hearing, you may not need to attend court.
- At the end of the programme you should have a parenting plan which you and the other parent/carer can use as the basis of your agreement
Do I have to participate?
No. You will have the option of participating in the programme. There are many benefits of choosing to participate:
- You can make the decisions about the arrangements for your children, unlike when you go to court
and the final decision is taken out of your hands.
- You will have your voice heard by your dedicated support contact at Cafcass, and after assessing
your situation they will offer a range of free services to suit you.
- The family court process can be lengthy and costly, this programme aims to reduce the impact of
conflict for you and your children.
- If it is safe to do so, you could attend alternative and free services and avoid the need to go to court.
Services you could be offered
The Separated Parents Information Programme – helps you understand how to put your children first and manage disputes with the other parent/carer.
Mediation – with the help of a professional you and the other parent/carer will make all the decisions. You may find this video by Exeter University helpful if you want to know more about how participants can benefit from mediation.
Parenting Plan meeting – this is facilitated by a Cafcass worker. It will help guide you and the other parent/carer to come to a final agreement, writing out what you have agreed about your children.
Child contact services – this provides the possibility of contact starting with your child, you and/or the other parent/carer in a neutral environment, using an accredited child contact centre.
If you have a case with us and have questions about this programme please contact your allocated practitioner.
Frequently asked questions
Why do I need to complete a self-assessment questionnaire when my personal information has already been included on the application sent to the court?
We would like you to complete a self-assessment questionnaire to help us understand in more detail a little bit more about your situation and your possible eligibility for the Support with making child arrangements programme. The information you provide us will help inform your discussion with the Cafcass Family Court Adviser who contacts you for your initial telephone interview appointment.
The questionnaire is quick and easy to navigate, and will provide us with a brief overview of any details affecting your situation that might have been missed on the application submitted to the court. You’ll be able to access the questionnaire online with a link which we will provide you on your first appointment letter. The link provided will be a shortened Google link that is much quicker and easier for you to type into your internet browser and access. Your questionnaire should take no longer than 5 minutes to complete, and you will be asked to provide us with the Personal User ID which was included on your appointment letter with the original link to the assessment.
How does Cafcass have access to my personal information?
Cafcass’ role is to promote and safeguard the welfare of children who are the subject of family court proceedings. We are asked by the family courts to provide information following applications regarding issues surrounding child arrangements. As part of our process, we are provided with the details of applications submitted to the court involving children. If you have been contacted by Cafcass regarding an ongoing case and it is the first time we have contacted you, then the information we hold may have been included on the original application involving you that has been submitted to the court. To fulfil our role as a court advisory and support service, we will collect and process your personal information. It is important therefore that any information that we do hold for you is accurate, so if you know that any of the personal information or contact details we hold for you are incorrect or out-of-date then please contact us as soon as possible so that we can update this. Please see our privacy notice for more information: www.cafcass.gov.uk/about-cafcass/policies/privacy-data-protection/privacy-notice-service-users/.
What will happen after my first telephone interview appointment?
Once you have discussed your situation with an allocated Family Court Adviser (FCA) you may be eligible to take part in the Support with making child arrangements programme. If your case is suitable for this pilot, your FCA will discuss with you a package of services which it may be appropriate for you to attend. These services may include the Separated Parents Information Programme, Mediation, a Parenting Plan meeting facilitated by your Family Court Adviser or child contact services.
If you can attend these services and are able to come to a written parenting agreement before your first hearing that is both safe and in the best interests of your children, then you may not need to attend court and your plan may be used as the basis of a future agreement between the parties in your case.
If your case is not eligible for this programme, then your telephone discussion with your allocated Family Court Adviser will instead be used to help inform a written safeguarding letter which we will be asked to submit to the family court to help it decide what outcome is best for your children. If you are not eligible for this pilot then you will need to attend court, where the final decision will be made by a judge or by a court legal adviser.
Will I pay for any services I access on this programme?
If you are eligible for this programme, then the services arranged by Cafcass for you to attend may be free of charge. Furthermore, if you can reach an agreement with the other parties in your case and you decide together to withdraw the original application from the family court with the support of your Family Court Adviser, there will be no additional charge for withdrawal. Please be advised this does not cover any additional services you and the other parties may wish to arrange outside of the appointments recommended by your Family Court Adviser, or any future services that you may attend following completion of the written parenting agreement and the withdrawal of your case from the court.
What is a Parenting Plan Agreement?
The Parenting Plan Agreement is a written plan which you will be asked to complete setting out the arrangements for your children. The plan will cover the practical issues of parenting, and can help to clarify the arrangements you need to put in place for the care of your children. The structure for your plan is already in place for you in the Parenting Plan form included in the Parenting Agreement documentation your Family Court Adviser will provide you with. Throughout this programme, when attending the package of agreed services arranged by your Family Court Adviser, it is expected that you will take your Parenting Agreement document along with you to your appointments, so that you can begin to fill it in with the aim of reaching a final agreement with the other parties in your case. Your Family Court Adviser will be on hand to provide you with support to start and to agree the plan. The final agreement will be finalised with the support of your allocated Family Court Adviser and if successful, will be submitted to the court for approval alongside an application to withdraw. You can continue to use your plan for the basis of your arrangements into the future, and it can be further adapted as your child continues to grow and their circumstances change with them.
What will happen once I have attended all my services?
Once you have attended the services arranged, it is hoped that you will be able to reach a final agreement with the parties in your case. If you and the parties in your case can agree to a Parenting Plan Agreement, then your Family Court Adviser will offer you with further support in applying to the court to withdraw your case from the current proceedings. If the court is satisfied with the Parenting Agreement reached between you and grant the application to withdraw, you will no longer be required to attend the scheduled hearing and your disagreement should have been resolved.
What happens if my case is withdrawn from the programme?
If your case is not eligible for the Support with making child arrangements programme, then your case will be returned to the traditional family court process. In this situation, you will be required to attend your first hearing as outlined in the letter sent to you by the court, and you will no longer be able to access the package of services offered on this programme. Cafcass will still complete telephone interviews with parties involved in the case (if possible) and will provide a safeguarding letter to the court. The outcome of your hearing will be decided by a judge or a court legal adviser.
You can continue to make use of the Parenting Agreement information which you have been provided. You may find it useful to consider some of the information on Cafcass’ finding more help webpage: www.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-ups/parents-and-carers/resources-parents-carers/.
What is mediation?
Please see our advice page on Family Mediation for more information: www.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-ups/parents-and-carers/divorce-and-separation/family-mediation/
What is the Separated Parents Information Programme?
Please see our advice page on the Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP) for more information: www.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-ups/parents-and-carers/divorce-and-separation/separated-parents-information-programme/
What is a Parenting Plan meeting?
A Parenting Plan meeting is an appointment facilitated directly by a Cafcass Family Court Adviser. The aim of this meeting is to help guide you and the other party in your case to come to an agreement yourselves about those arrangements that are in the best interests for your children. Your Family Court Adviser will help you to discuss the day-to-day realities of raising a child as separated parties and to consider your child’s future as they continue to grow and their circumstances change with them. If an agreement can be reached, it is hoped that your Family Court Adviser will be able to assist you in formalising a written Parenting Plan Agreement. This Agreement will cover the practical issues of parenting, and can potentially help to clarify the arrangements that you need to put in place to care for your children without the need to go to court.