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What happens if your family lives in Bournemouth, Weymouth or Dorset?

Some Cafcass teams that work in the Dorset, Bournemouth and Weymouth family courts are participating in a pilot scheme, known as ‘Pathfinder’, which aims to improve experiences for children and families in private law family court proceedings.  If your family application has been made to one of these courts you can expect a slightly different approach from us than would be experienced in other parts of the country.  

The pilot is testing if and how we can reduce delay in family court proceedings. Cafcass and other agencies involved in private law proceedings are aiming to improve how we give children and young people the chance to tell us what they would like to happen as a result of the court proceedings, and improve their overall experience of proceedings, particularly where they or their families have suffered domestic abuse or harm.  

Families participating in the pilot will be invited to provide feedback about the pilot but do not need to share their thoughts about their experiences if they do not wish to do so.  

Within the pilot, after the court has received an application concerning a child, it sends the application to us so that we may review the available information.  We undertake checks with the police and with the local authorities where you live, and where you have lived in the past, to see if there is anything that may cause concern about the welfare or safety of you and your child. 

You and your child will receive a letter from us that tells you a little more about our involvement. You will have a call with a Family Court Adviser (FCA) who will want to understand your family’s circumstances and how the situation is affecting your child.   

The FCA will review the information they have about your family and will decide what the next steps will be.  It may be that an FCA wants to meet with you and your child in person. There are a variety of next steps the FCA may recommend after reviewing the information they have gathered. 

The FCA will share this information with the court in a “Child Impact Report” so that the court can make a decision that is safe and in your child’s best interests. We will keep you and your child informed at all times and will ensure that your child’s voice is heard and that their views are considered when decisions are being made about their future. 

The legal process is set out in the Pilot Scheme Practice Direction 36Z.