What Support Can The Family Court Order To Promote Contact Arrangements?
There are a variety of ways in which the Family Court can support contact arrangements between a child and a parent. Orders will , if necessary be made on the basis of recommendations from Cafcass, whose Family Court Advisers guide the court on matters of safeguarding. Even where Court proceedings are necessary however, both parents are encouraged to try and come to an agreement if possible for the benefit of the child(ren) and support is provided where possible. This article provides a short guide to some of the most common forms of support.
Separated Parents Information Programme
This is a short course completed separately by each parent. It is extremely commonly recommended by Cafcass and ordered by the court. It is designed to help parents communicate effectively about their children following separation. In particular, it looks at how conflict between parents can impact children. Cafcass and the court will often advise parents in private children cases that constructive communication is central. A specialist family lawyer can advise on communicating in a productive way within the circumstances of your own case.
Improving Child and Family Arrangements
This is a service designed by Cafcass. It involves professionals working with the family on a short-term basis in difficult private law children cases. The work involved will depend on the individual family but can involve meeting with parents individually and together, working with the children directly and observation of contact.
A referral can only be made by Cafcass if it is court ordered. This means that the court must consider that it is in the best interests of the child. It will likely only be ordered in a minority of cases due to the limited resources of Cafcass and its regional providers. Parties must have been ordered to attend the Separated Parents Information Programme before the court can order work under Improving Child and Family Arrangements.
Domestic Abuse Perpetrator Programme
This is a course commonly ordered after domestic abuse has been admitted or been found at a fact-finding hearing. The party attending the course will need to be assessed as suitable. This generally requires accepting any findings made against them. However, there are further courses designed at preparing parties for the Domestic Abuse Perpetrators Programme where they do not yet accept the findings. Cafcass will only made a referral following a court order. The course aims to help parents who have perpetrated domestic abuse to change their behaviour. This should give the court reassurance that contact with that parent will be safer, dependent on the progress made during the programme.
Family Assistance Order
This requires a Cafcass officer or an officer of the local authority to advise, assist and (where appropriate) befriend any person named in the order. It may be made alongside an order for contact and Cafcass ordered to assist with establishing or maintaining contact. They may also be required to report back to the court on whether an order should be varied or discharged. The court cannot make this order without the consent of everyone named in the order apart from the child. The court will require input from Cafcass or the local authority about the suitability of such an order. As with all the forms of support listed in this article, specialist legal advice will be required on the best approach so any one case.
If seeking contact, it is always sensible to consider what steps can be taken to demonstrate commitment to a child-focused approach. A parenting course is another tool to achieve this. Parenting courses can be undertaken independently by a parent, online or in person. A legal expert will advise as to whether this is suitable for your case. This is likely to turn on the nature and severity of the issues in your case.
Here to Help
If you need advice on any family matter, please get in touch with Tracey Dargan, Partner and Head of Family and Divorce.
Please note the contents of this article are given for information only and must not be relied upon. Legal advice should always be sought in relation to specific circumstances.