Welcome to Cafcass
This page has been designed for parents and carers who are at the start of their family law proceedings. You may already know what the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) does, how we work with children and families at court, and what to expect. However, this page contains all the information you might need to know before your first hearing. We recommend you spend 10-15 minutes reading it, especially if this is your first time at court.
You can find out more about Cafcass throughout the website.
What is going to happen after you confirm your details until your first hearing
You should have received your Welcome Letter from Cafcass that tells you when and at what time your telephone interview will take place.
- The interview will be an opportunity to speak to your allocated Family Court Adviser about any safeguarding issues in your case.
- It’s important you make a note of this, so you don’t forget. You will also receive a text message reminder on the day of your telephone interview.
- This call usually lasts 30 minutes – and it’s really important you speak to us, so we can give the best picture of what’s happening to the court.
You might then receive a copy of your safeguarding letter.
- This is the letter that your Family Court Adviser will write to tell the court what Cafcass has learnt as a result of completing our safeguarding enquiries.
- In most circumstances you’ll get a copy of the letter, occasionally this is not possible. For example, if the letter contains information that would present a risk to others, or if there isn’t enough time before the hearing. If this happens, we will tell the court about this. The safeguarding letter is confidential and should not be shared.
You may be required to attend your First Hearing.
- Your hearing date will be set by the court. You may hear this referred to as a First Hearing Dispute Resolution Hearing or a Directions Appointment. If you’re not sure when this is taking place, you should contact your local court.
If you are confused about anything, the Cafcass call-centre will be happy to point you in the right direction, please contact them on the following number if you need any help: 0300 456 4000.
Frequently asked questions
What should I expect in my Cafcass Interview?
In your interview your FCA will talk to you about the safeguarding checks with the police and local authority children’s services, and any risk issues that may be affecting your child / children. You should ensure that you are in a place that is private. Please allow up to 45 minutes, but it may not take this long, depending on the circumstances in your case.
This phone call may be made close to the hearing date, so don’t worry if your interview has been scheduled for closer to that time.
What can I expect from the Safeguarding Letter?
This is a short report to the court on the outcomes of the safeguarding checks and any risk issues raised in the telephone interviews with you and the other party.
Will I receive a copy of my Safeguarding Letter?
In most circumstances you’ll get a copy of the letter that the FCA writes before the first hearing. Occasionally, this isn’t possible. For example, if the letter contains information that would present a risk to others, or if there isn’t enough time before the hearing. If this happens, we will tell the court about this. The safeguarding letter is confidential and should not be shared.
How can I find out more about Cafcass and what is going to happen at court?
Please see our information pages available on our website.
I haven’t received a hearing date from the court
Please contact the court directly about this, as they will be best able to help you.
How do I find a solicitor or mediator?
If you have questions about the legal process, then you may wish to consult a solicitor. You can find a solicitor by going to the Law Society website.
During mediation an independent, professionally trained mediator helps you and your ex-partner work out an agreement without being on anyone’s ‘side’. You can search the Family Mediation Council Register for a mediator who practises near you.
I’m not using a solicitor, where can I get some advice?
If you are acting in these proceedings without the support of a solicitor (known as a Litigant in Person) information on how to do this can be found at www.justice.gov.uk/forms/hmcts. Look for the Leaflet CB7; Guide for separated parents: children and family courts.
What do Cafcass do with my personal information?
Please see our Privacy Notice.
Why are emails sent using Egress?
We use Egress Switch which allows emails to be sent and received securely. The first time you receive an Egress Switch email from Cafcass, you will need to create your own account (first time users will be prompted). This is a free service. You will need to be signed into your account to view messages sent by Cafcass. A step-by-step guide on setting up an Egress Switch account is attached or can be found on our website.
Why haven’t I received my Welcome letter yet?
If we have your email address on record, we will send your welcome letter electronically. Your email provider may not recognise the Cafcass email address. Please check your junk mailbox to avoid delays.
Why do I need to provide my diversity information to Cafcass?
By providing Cafcass with your diversity information this allows us to understand the diversity of our families, how this can influence their experiences with us and what more we need to do to meet their needs. You can find more information in relation to our equality, diversity and inclusion objectives on our website click here.
Top Tips from the Family Justice Young People’s Board
The Family Justice Young People’s Board (FJYPB) are a group of over 50 children and young people aged between seven and 25 years old who live across England and Wales. All of our members have either had direct experience of the family justice system or have an interest in children’s rights and the family courts.
You can view the Top Tips for parents and carers here.
Resources that might help you
We have curated some resources that might be helpful for you to look at before your first hearing.
Resources for parents and carers