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The court asks an FCA to write a report if your case goes beyond first hearing (Section 7 reports)

At the first hearing, the court may ask us to allocate your case to a Family Court Adviser (FCA) to carry out a more detailed assessment of the disputed issues, write a report to the court about your child’s welfare and advise the court about what is in your child’s best interests. This is known as a Section 7 report. 

An FCA will be allocated to you. They will decide what information they need for the report, based on what is contained in the Safeguarding Letter and what the court has asked them to look into. This will include engaging with your child in order to understand what life is like for them and their wishes and feelings about what they would like to happen. For a baby or young child, your FCA will observe them with a parent or carer, to help them understand their relationships, their personalities, and their needs. 

Your FCA will: 

  • write to your child to introduce themselves;
  • usually talk to your child alone – this may be at a neutral venue such as at their school; 
  • spend time with you and the other party to hear about any concerns you might have about your child’s welfare; and 
  • may also speak to other people such as family members, teachers, and health workers to gain a fuller understanding of your child. 

Your FCA will not ask your children to decide on their arrangements or to in any way choose between you and the other party. 

Your FCA will share their thinking and recommendations with you and your child in advance of filing their report with the court. This helps them understand your and your child’s thoughts and feelings about their recommendations.   

Your FCA will write a report advising the court on what they have found and what they think should happen. In most cases, you will be able to see the report before the court hearing. 

If you are not happy with the Section 7 report

If you are unhappy about what your FCA has written in their report and their opinion, it is important that you let your solicitor (if you have one) and the court know what you are unhappy about. This means the judge or magistrate will be able to take your concerns into account when making their decision.  

If you find there are any factual inaccuracies, such as incorrect names or dates of birth, you should notify your FCA who wrote the report or their manager. 

The final court decision

The court will make the final decision about the arrangements for your child after reading the Section 7 report and listening to what you and other people in the child’s case have said. 

The court will: 

  • pay particular attention to your child’s wishes and feelings – but may not always do what your child wants; 
  • make its decision based on what it thinks is best for your child based on everything presented; and 
  • set its decision out in a ‘court order’ which everyone must comply with. 

If you are not happy with the court’s decision, you can raise this with the court. You cannot make a complaint to Cafcass about the decision of the court because Cafcass has no authority to challenge the court’s decision. 

Help and support

Throughout the whole process, your FCA will be able to answer any questions you may have about your child’s case, although they cannot provide legal advice. 

You may also wish to get advice from a solicitor or from some of the organisations listed on our finding more help page.

Working with you and your child – our video featuring other parents and FCAs