Children Act proceedings

Children Act proceedings can be necessary if parents are unable to agree arrangements for a child or children, if one parent wishes to relocate abroad or to another part of the UK or if the child's parents need assistance from the court in resolving specific issues relating to their parental responsibility, for example over where a child should go to school. Whilst the precise format of proceedings will vary from case to case, often they tend to follow a three-stage format, as outlined below.

  • A Cafcass officer normally meets the parties before the hearing. Cafcass stands for Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, and its role is to assist the court and advise as to what may be in the interest of the children. The Cafcass officer will see if the parents can agree arrangements there and then.
  • If appropriate, the judge will direct the Cafcass officer to prepare a report as to what is in the best interests of the children. Very often, this will involve the Cafcass meeting with the children and with both parents.
  • The court may make other directions, for example with regard to filing of witness statements or involving any other experts in complex cases.
  • The court may direct a “finding of fact” hearing where there are allegations of domestic abuse or harm.
  • The court and the parents will have received the Cafcass report, making recommendations in relation to future child arrangements.
  • The parents endeavour to reach an agreement, where appropriate with the assistance of the Cafcass officer or the court, so as to avoid a final hearing.
  • Both parents and any other witnesses will attend and give evidence
  • The Cafcass officer may be directed to attend to give evidence
  • Having heard the evidence, the judge makes a final decision (a judgement)
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