Children and Young People in Court
Anyone who has been through a family break-up or who has lost contact with their children knows how difficult it can be. It is often very upsetting and stressful for everyone, especially children. Research shows that continuing conflict between families can harm children. That's why it's usually best if families, in which parents are separating, can reach a safe agreement about their children rather than going through the often costly and lengthy full family court process.
If you and your ex-partner cannot agree about arrangements for children - and you have already tried to resolve things in mediation - you may decide that you want to take the matter to court. At court a Judge will often try to help you by seeing what possibilities there are to make compromises on the spot. If this is not possible the Judge may again suggest mediation. If there are welfare concerns the Judge may appoint a Child and Families Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) officer to investigate the matter. The officer will make arrangements to see each parent and each child and may also want to see other significant people in the family network. A report will be written which will inform the Judge in the decision-making process.
Kitty (15) and Jess (18), two members of the Family Justice Youth People's Board (FJYPB), and Ewan (11), discuss their personal experiences of the family courts in a video and how Cafcass Family Court Advisers (FCAs) supported and listened to them, keeping their best interests at the heart of proceedings.
This video talks about the type of work Cafcass might do in cases around where a child will live (residence) or where a child will live (contact). These are often called 'private law' cases. It's really important to understand that in most cases Cafcass will only do a very short piece of work with the adult parties. Cafcass will only meet with children and young people when the court has asked us to do so.
For some couples who are separating or divorcing, the family courts are a necessary service to help determine what's best for your family. For others, however, there are others services, such as mediation, that can help you reach an agreement and avoid the court system.
For further information, visit the Children and Families Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass)
The Courts recognise that parents are generally best placed to know what is in their children's interests and are encouraging parents to work this out together, with the assistance of a qualified mediator. They acknowledge that mediation is not suitable in every case but for the vast majority it represents an opportunity for you to find a solution that fits best with your family’s circumstances.
Since April 2011, anyone applying to the Courts for assistance in resolving a dispute about parenting or finances following relationship breakdown has had to comply with the Pre-Application Protocol. This requires you to attend a meeting to learn about mediation – a Mediation Information Meeting (MIAM).
Legal aid is no longer widely available for divorce proceedings although if you are seeing a mediator and are legally aided you will be entitled to Help with Mediation if you instruct a solicitor who undertakes Family Legal Aid work.
National Family Mediation (NFM) is a network of professional family mediation providers based in England and Wales that work with families affected by relational breakdown. All providers aim to help clients achieve an outcome that works best for them and their family
If you would like to get more information about mediation and/or make an appointment you can contact NFM direct on 0300 4000 636 or you can contact a NFM family mediation provider in your area.
All services also take referrals from Solicitors, the court or other helping / support agencies.