A judge who has asked CAFCASS to prepare a report advising the court on what is in a child’s best interest is going to be heavily influenced by the report which the CAFCASS officer prepares. They are not bound to follow a CAFCASS recommendation but there must be a good reason not to do so which must be explained in the judge’s decision. It is therefore of the utmost importance to those involved in a dispute over the arrangements for children to present themselves in a favorable light. To do so there are some important does and don’ts.
If a CAFCASS report has been ordered here are some important does and don’ts.
• Accept and acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses as a parent.
• Be completely truthful about your situation. Answer questions fully and do not use them to elaborate and argue your case. You are not a politician.
• Acknowledge the benefits to your children of having a full and meaningful relationship with children and playing a full part in their upbringing.
• Show your willingness to consider alternative arrangements whilst explaining why you prefer some over others.
• Demonstrate that you can be trusted to do what you say by providing paperwork or further information required promptly.
Throughout focus on what is best for the children and not what is best and most convenient for you.
You should not:
• Say anything negative about the other parent unless raised by the officer. You should then be as fair and even-handed as possible and not expand on their weaknesses.
• Ask the CAFCASS officer for their advice on how to deal with the children or the other parent. They are not therapists or there to advise you but to prepare a report for the court.
• Be late or miss appointments.
• Show disregard or disobey interim orders which have been made by the court.
DO NOT try to manipulate the CAFCASS Officer
Most importantly do not try to manipulate the CAFCASS Officer. Do not adopt an adversarial approach and appear argumentative. Acknowledge that the help of experienced professionals could be needed by you and the other parent and that you are prepared to co-operate with it.
If the officer wishes to speak to the children, you must never coach them on what to say or do. Instead re-assure the children as they are bound to be nervous and confused. Under no circumstances should they be encouraged to speak negatively about their other parent. Explain that the CAFCASS officer is just trying to understand more about your family so that it can be decided what is best for everyone. Reassure them that all they need to do is to tell the truth.
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If you need more help, ask for child law advice.