The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) has published a new framework setting out how children may experience parental separation and how this can be understood and acted on in CAFCASS.

The framework brings together existing and new tools into four guides to support its Family Court Advisers in assessing different case factors within private children law matters, these include:

  • Domestic abuse – this includes where children have been harmed directly or indirectly, for example from the impact of coercive control;
  • Conflict which is harmful of the child – this includes long-running court cases which are also referred to as intractable contact disputes and mutual hostility between parents which can become intolerable for the child;
  • Child refusal or resistance – this includes a child refusing to spend time with a parent which may be due to a range of justified reasons or could be an indicator of the harm caused when child has been alienated by one parent against the other for no good reason (parental alienation);
  • Other forms of harmful parenting – this includes factors like substance misuse or mental health difficulties.

Identification And Assessment

The intention of the document is to help CAFCASS advisors with the timely identification and accurate assessment of what is happening for each child and to provide consistent and balanced reporting to the Court when advising on what CAFCASS considers to be in the child’s best interests.

If any of the above factors are raised, then the framework provides an indication as to how the CAFCASS advisor will approach the case.

Given the weight the Court places on the recommendations made by CAFCASS when deciding what orders to make, it is clear that what is contained within the framework will play a large role in the case.

Any parent (and their legal team) involved in a case featuring any of the factors would be wise to familiarise themselves with the relevant sections of the framework which apply to their matter.

The document is on the CAFCASS website and can be accessed here.

There are various links within the page which will take you through to the relevant tools and guidance for each factor.

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