The Court and Cafcass – How Decisions are made if Parents can’t Agree
Before applying to court to sort out arrangements for your children you should make every effort to negotiate an agreement with the other parent.
You will be expected to have considered using mediation by attending a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM). Mediation has a good success rate but doesn't work for everyone. If mediation doesn't go ahead or breaks down and you have to apply for a court order about children, you will need to fill in a form C100. It’s a very detailed form and it’s important that every section is filled in correctly. The mediator will need to sign this form to confirm that mediation has been considered unless an exemption applies.
Watch Making your application to court for more guidance.
Before you see a judge you will be contacted by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass).
Cafcass officers are independent, qualified in social work and experienced in working with children and families. They will make enquiries to see if there any risk factors for you or the children, for example, if Social Services are involved or if there are records of police involvement with the family.
This information is provided to the court in a report which may also include a suggestion about what should happen next. For example, they may feel that the parents would benefit from using mediation or attending a Separated Parents Information Programme.
The judge may ask you to meet with the Family Court Advisor to see if you can settle matters. Unless it is absolutely necessary, judges prefer not to be in the position of having to impose a decision.
Watch Attending the first hearing for more information.
In the absence of agreement, the judge will decide what evidence they need to make a decision about contact. Evidence may include:
- A written statement setting out your views on contact
- A Cafcass officer’s report which will explain what enquiries have been made and what they think is best for the children.
- A Cafcass officer’s recommendation
At a final hearing, the judge will make a decision about what contact should take place.
For further information, visit our section on legal advice for separating parents