Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) is a non-departmental public body in England set up to promote the welfare of children and families involved in Family Court. So what does this actually mean?

What does CAFCASS do?

In real terms, the Family Court will engage the services of Cafcass on the outset of any application they receive within the Children Act proceedings. Cafcass will then appoint the family a Cafcass officer. A Cafcass officer is a specialist Social Worker who engages with the family throughout the Court proceedings.

In the first instance, a Cafcass Officer will seek to uncover any risks to the safety of the child or any parent, otherwise known as safeguarding issues. Safeguarding issues would include a risk of harm to the child, issues of alcoholism or substance misuse in the family, risk of or historic domestic violence, abduction, and prior police or local authority involvement. This list is not exhaustive. How do they get your information? In order to carry out their safeguarding checks a Cafcass officer will have access to a large database to obtain information such as Police records, GP records, school records and the Local Authority database.

During their safeguarding checks a Cafcass Officer will speak with the parent who made the application, also known as the Applicant, and the other parent, also known as the Respondent. Once the Cafcass Officer completes their safeguarding checks they will send the Family Court and the parents (where appropriate) a letter confirming whether future involvement with the family is needed. In most cases the safeguarding checks will reveal that there are no concerns, and the case will progress in Court without the involvement of a Cafcass officer.

However, in some cases the safeguarding checks will reveal that Cafcass need to do further work with the family. This may be to ensure the parents engage in activity to aid them during their separation, for example attending the Separated Parents Information Programme or a Parenting Course. In more serious cases Cafcass may wish to do direct work with the family and undertake a child welfare report. This report is commonly known as a Section 7 Report by Cafcass.

What is a Section 7 Report by Cafcass?

In preparing a Section 7 Report Cafcass will send an officer to meet with the parents, and also any children of the family either together with their parents or privately. The Cafcass Section 7 Report will seek to uncover any of the following issues that are relevant:

  • Where the child should live;
  • Whether the child should spend time with the parent they do not live with and if so, how often and for how long;
  • The wishes and feelings of the child (depending on their age and understanding);
  • The home conditions and suitability of the accommodation of the parents and/or someone else the child may stay with;
  • Whether or not the child’s physical/ emotional/educational needs are being met;
  • Whether or not it appears that the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering harm;
  • A specific concern that has been raised in the case;
  • The parenting capacity of one parent having regard to any allegations or findings made;
  • The effect on the child of a proposed change in circumstance.

The Cafcass Officer will then file their Report to the Family Court and share it with the parents. The Report will conclude with recommendations on the current and future arrangements of the child. So what impact does this report have? A Section 7 Cafcass Report is regarded as highly pivotal to a Court case concerning children as it will be the greatest insight the Court have to what is in the best interests of any children. Therefore the Court take the recommendations very seriously and will seek to follow these recommendations unless there are compelling or procedural reasons not to.

Family Court Guidance

Given the above, it is clear that Court cases involving children and especially those that require the involvement of Cafcass can be very stressful and distressing. We understand that such cases need to be treated with care, and we have shared below Cafcass’ top tips for engaging with Family Court proceedings.

  1. Court proceedings should be the last resort. Court can be expensive and you may not get the desired outcome. Think of other ways to resolve the issues such as mediation before going to court.
  2. Court proceedings can take a long time and the length in time can damage your child’s emotional wellbeing and their relationship with both parents.
  3. If your child is struggling emotionally, speak to professionals and seek support from their school or GP.
  4. The Court process is traumatic for everyone involved. Remember to take care of your own wellbeing during this process.
  5. When the important adults have good communication with each other, the child can see that they have their best interests at heart.
  6. Both parents love their child and want the best for them. Arguing and criticising each other in front of your child may make them think otherwise.
  7. Avoid sharing your current difficulties on social media as your child may become aware, causing them upset and embarrassment.
  8. Please encourage and support your child’s relationship with all of their grandparents and other family members. They love your child too and want to maintain a relationship with them.

When Do Cafcass Recommend No Contact?

Typically, when there is evidence of domestic violence and abuse in the family. In the Section 7 Report by Cafcass, they will often recommend that there is no contact with the abusive parent and the child. As safeguarding the child is their top priority, they will want the child to be kept out of potentially harmful situations.

Cafcass Grandparents Rights

In many families, grandparents can play as significant roles in the child’s upbringing as their own parents, often more so. A grandparent can often be a safe adult for the child when their own parents may be unreliable, scary, or in conflict with one another. Grandparents can be caught in a difficult position at times between parents, trying to act as mediators or filling in as a parental figure for the child. As such grandparents are often consulted as part of the Cafcass Section 7 interview questions.

Unfortunately for many, grandparents do not have a legal right to see the child. They are not treated with the same legal consideration as the parents, no matter how significant of a role they play in the child’s life. However, there is hope for grandparents. Firstly, if you can maintain good relations with the child’s parents then you will likely be able to remain as a key figure in the child’s life. If you demonstrate that you are supportive, safe, and have the child’s best interests at heart then you likely will have no need for courts, solicitors, or any legal headaches at all.

We recognise however that this is not always possible. As such, your next option with be mediation. Sitting down and having a discussion with the parents through a mediator could go a long way in helping you to build a civil line of communication. You will be able to express your wishes to support your grandchild and establish boundaries with the parents to ensure things remain healthy and positive going forward.

If all else fails you are able to apply for a Child Arrangement Order. This is a whole separate blog post in itself and comes with a lot of costs. We recognise however that for some it is their only option.

Contact a West London Solicitor

Do need advice on about you and your child? Get in touch with us today. Currently, we are offering a free initial telephone consultation with our family team for new enquires. During this call we will tell you what we can do next to get started. Give our family solicitors a call now for a friendly chat on 020 8735 9770 or email our family law department at

Read more about similar topics below:

What is a Section 7 Report?

Mediation – A Cure or a Bump in the Road?

Child Safety Week – Safeguarding Children


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