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When you represent yourself in a contested family case, in other words without a lawyer, you are a ‘litigant in person’ (LIP). It’s a daunting experience and the best way to cope is to understand what’s going to happen, who is going to do what, what issues are going to be seen as important and what will not be seen as important, get good advice and be organised and make sure you do what’s necessary.
As part of their Child Impact Assessment Framework (CIAF), CAFCASS have guidance on how to assess families and how they work with children where there is parental alienation.
The links in this blog will show you exactly what the Family Court Adviser (FCA) will use to assess or analyse your family and you can see exactly what CAFCASS thinks is useful. FCAs are expected to follow these processes although they do have discretion in how they conduct their assessments.
The Child Impact Assessment Framework (CIAF) sets out how CAFCASS think children experience parental separation, how the child’s reaction can be understood and what should be done. The framework consists of four guides which Cafcass practitioners can use to assess different types of problem, known as ‘case factors’.
CAFCASS describe Child Contact Interventions (CCIs) as short-term interventions of supervised contact. They are designed to help adults and children establish safe and beneficial contact when it is difficult to do on their own. CAFCASS consider CCIs should be a ‘learning opportunity’ for parents with input from the Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP).
Parents who are in conflict with their exes over the arrangements for their children often find that they have been drawn into a repeated pattern of damaging emotional reactions and behaviour. Their ex is able to manipulate them, deliberately provoking them and knowing what will cause a reaction. To prevent this you must distance yourself from the adult but not from the child. Distancing yourself means having no conversation and no meetings. If that is impossible without help here is an adapted version of the 12 steps which could be a guide to achieving the necessary balance
The CAFCASS website explains how they consider these cases and how they deal specifically with allegations of domestic abuse, high conflict cases, parental alienation, substance abuse and mental illness.
The CAFCASS worker preparing the report will decide what enquiries to make based on what the court has asked them to look into. This may include talking to children (depending on their age and understanding) about their wishes and feelings and what they would like to happen.
You will gain a lot by understanding what’s to be covered in a CAFCASS interview and to have had time to think about how you’ll reply. So prepare well. Read their interview plan to see what CAFCASS cover in their interview, understand the principles by which they work and read my previous blogs with more CAFCASS information.