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plclegal, Barrister
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Help! I seem to be having problems with CAFCASS and a

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Help! I seem to be having problems with CAFCASS and a court-ordered contact arrangement.
Have court order for interim contact (1/10/21) stating the mother must make the children available a) on Saturdays (4 hours), b) Tuesdays (2 hours "from the end of school") and c) any other or further times the parties agree in writing. Contact is to be supported, with the supporter playing a minimal or role.I made detailed plan of place/time/location/supporter (via wife’s solicitors). She then offered Wednesdays (which I accepted as "extra or further" times allowed for under section c in the order. She said, no, it was instead of Tuesdays. I wrote back and said i do not agree Wednesdays instead of Tuesdays, but agree Wednesdays as well as Tuesdays.Anyway, of the 7 Tuesdays, she's only turned up to 3. And on Wednesdays, they keep not turning up even when they've agreed to. I rang CAFCASS on 3/11/21 “at my wit's end” and said i needed intervention. CAFCASS said they can’t intervene and I needed to take the matter up with the court.To simplify matters, and for consistency, I sent a new plan that only included Tuesdays and Saturdays (exactly what the court has ordered) and said that I would collect children up from school on Tuesdays (with my supporter). I emailed a copy of the Court Order to the school so they could see that I was meant to be spending time with the children "from the end of school".My wife has obviously now complained to CAFCASS about this plan and picking up from school. CAFCASS say: it is not agreed that I should change the contact plan put forward by my wife (which is for Wednesdays) and have questioned "you also believed you were having a Tuesday, given this is not identified within the court order". Is it CAFCASS’ place to say that contact is not agreed as per my plan?CAFCASS then challenge me on providing a copy of the court order to the school, asking for evidence of leave from the court to do so. My understanding is that there is no leave required for this (the order doesn't say anywhere on it that it is a restricted court document). I believe the school should have a copy of the order so that they know who the children should be spending time with after school (i.e. they know that if i turn up to collect them on a Tuesday). Am I wrong to have provided a copy of the order to the children's school? CAFCASS are clearly hinting that it is contempt of court.CAFCASS are clearly confused as the court order specifically says Tuesdays and they are saying it doesn't (yet they have a copy of the order). They are insisting that I should be following the Wednesdays put forward by my wife instead.CAFCASS are saying that the school then "need to ascertain the identities of my supporters, which isn't there job." I have no idea why this should be the case. I think this sounds totally bizarre. And even more bizarre that CAFCASS are getting involved.CAFCASS say the children have at no point said they want me to pick them up from school. But then, they've never expressly said that they don't want me to pick them up (I used to pick them up before we separated). The court order says "from the end of school" so precisely allows for me to pick them up after school. Am I wrong to now be saying that I shall collect from school?They have said "can you please inform me of your thought process and why you have felt it necessary to again deviate from the plan that was devised in full consideration of [children]'s needs. My thought process is that the swapping/changing of times/days by my wife is confusing and not a suitable structure/routine for the children, and instead of changing days, i've regressed back to the bare basics of what the court order states should happen so there's absolutely no doubt on anyone's side what should happen. But with CAFCASS effectively denying the very terms of the court order, this argument will fall on deaf ears and I'm very worried I'll be fanning flames when what I'm trying to do is quell the fire.If I write back to CAFCASS to highlight all the contact times that didn’t go ahead and why my proposals are exactly in line with the court order and their own recommendations, I feel I will come across as "wrong" and will be criticised no matter what I write and how I phrase it and how logical and succinct and accurate and appropriate my reasoning is. Previous advice is that I shouldn't really get involved with CAFCASS but now they are, essentially, saying that they are not agreeing to contact taking place in line with the court order.

Good afternoon.

My name is ***** ***** I specialise in family law. I’m happy to assist you today and I appreciate that is is important that you find a resolution as soon as possible.

Please note that our discussions on this site are for general information purposes and do not create an lawyer-client relationship. It is always recommended that you consult with a local solicitor for specific legal information.

I'll do my best to resolve this for you, please give me time to review your question and I will revert back to you shortly.

Please bear in mind though that this is an email service and not live chat and therefore I may not respond immediately.

I personally have no idea why Cafcass are getting so involved in this, its not their role to challenge you directly on the point of adhering to the court order.

As regards ***** ***** court order, it should have carried a warning on it about it being a confidential document, you would normally have to seek leave of the court to disclose to the school. However, if the order does not say this on the face of it you cannot necessarily be criticised for not knowing this, you are not a lawyer.

If your proposals are in line with the order I do not see where they are coming from. You don't have to agree to changes and it sounds like the mother is in breach of the order in any event - so you may actually be in a position to consider an enforcement application.

If the order says from the end of school then of course you would collect from school. The children's views on this point aren't relevant.

It sounds like you have someone here that is overstepping their role. I don't see the issue in wiring setting out the court ordered agreement, any previous proposals for extra time and a record of all of the times that the order has been breached.If you keep this factual, I don't see how the court would find any criticism with the approach regardless of what Cafcass are saying or not saying.

Can I clarify anything further at this stage?

Customer: replied 11 days ago.
The order does not carry any warning about being shared and does not say anywhere that it is a restricted court document. From all my research, it appears to be "normal" in child arrangement disputes that the school is kept informed of who the child will be received by after school, say, so the school are aware of any potential welfare/safeguarding issues. Isn't this the case?I definitely feel that the CAFCASS officer is overstepping their role as you say. Especially as I rang to get help from them about all the times the mother/children don't turn up to contact and they basically said its not for them to intervene. I made a pact with myself at that point to not defer to them again as they clearly were not interested and considered that my "argument" should be made to a court (i.e. via an enforcement order). However, they are clearly now intervening on the part of the mother because she doesn't want to deviate from her proposals and the CAFCASS officer is clearly "on her side" and backing her.I wrote extensively over the summer when contact was suspended for 9 weeks. When I spoke to CAFCASS early on in this period, they asked me to copy them in. I did but, over the course of 2 months, they didn't do anything other than to comment in the subsequent S7 addendum report that they've seen the correspondence between the parties and said it was highly contentious, leading to a suggestion that we both get therapeutic intervention to address our mistrust of each other. I wrote about 7 weeks ago to clarify what is was they meant by this and what sort of therapy (as i had already undergone therapy to help deal with the situation) but, again, they simply do not reply or provide any guidance.If it's not CAFCASS role not to get involved, there doesn't seem to be any way forward. I would imagine that the following happens: I turn up on a Tuesday to get children from school. Mother is there and takes children home. I don't try to intervene (so not to cause a scene etc) and just document it. But this seems to glib/limp/ineffective to maintain contact. I will also be accused of harassment (even if i don't even speak to her) which I want to avoid.Apart from an enforcement order, is my only option to simply turn up faithfully, as per court order, and hope? And if it doesn't happen, just keep documenting it until the final hearing?The thing is, if i do this and document it and then write to CAFCASS to say all these times that this happens, they will only write back and say something like "Well, we said you shouldn't have gone to the school and contact wasn't going to go ahead on a Tuesday and yet you deliberately did it, which caused emotional harm to the children as they saw their mother distressed because you were there."But if don't turn up, then I'll be accused of not turning up to contact.It feels like a no-win situation....?

You are right that the school should be kept informed, but that does not normally extend to sharing court documentation. However, if it didn't carry a warning then as I said the court should not take you to task over the point.

You have court ordered contact. Cafcass don't have the ability to unilaterally change that in line with one parent's wishes.

You should maintain the pattern as set out in the order. Mother wising to change this without your consent is her issue to raise with the court, not the other way around.

If your court ordered contact is frustrated by mother and Cafcass are actively encouraging her to do so, then raise these issues with the court through enforcement.

A judge should take with view that Cafcass cannot overrule the court ardered agreement, they don't have a judicial role.

I trust that this assists?

Customer: replied 11 days ago.
thank you. A C79 form is the right one to use for an enforcement application, is that right? The section on there on why I'm making this application is very small. Can I attach a witness statement of sorts that lays out the contact arrangements and the dates, times, details and facts about how/why/when contact did not go ahead? And include the email correspondence etc that shows the agreements, including the emails from CAFCASS that appear to show that 1) they are clearly confused about the order and 2) their support of contact not to take place on the ordered days?
Customer: replied 11 days ago.
do enforcement order applications tend to get heard quickly? ie more quickly than a general contact application?

It is there C79 - yes.

You can attach statement in support, that's perfectly fine.

As to timescales it will depend entirely on the court I have to be honest.

I hope that this resolves your query for today.

Thank you for your enquiry. I am happy to answer follow-up questions - please do get in touch with requests for extra information or further queries and I will do my best to help you.

Customer: replied 10 days ago.
Thank you for your help yesterday, it was very reassuring. I've spoken to the headteacher at the school and she has agreed for me to pick up the children in line with the terms of the court order, which specifically names the people who can act as supporters. Given this helpful support from the school, I feel that in providing the order to the school was appropriate (in retrospect) so that they now know (and are happy with) who will be with me when i collect the children from school on Tuesdays. I don't think they would have been able to reach this position of trust/reassurance from a safeguarding point-of-view without having had sight of the court order. I feel this has (again, retrospectively) shown that in providing a copy of the order was the most appropriate thing to do to make progress with contact in this instance....?Thank you

Happy to help. Yes this all makes sense.

After all the headteacher will understand confidentiality issues and also has a safeguarding agenda.

I trust that reassures you.

plclegal and 2 other Family Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 10 days ago.
Thank you indeed for you advice and information, much appreciated again. I have a feeling that soon i will be on here again asking about the next issue that CAFCASS raise!!

Thank you again for visiting JustAnswer, please do let me know if you have any additional questions in the future. I am also happy to answer any new questions on other topics that you may have, you can request me by putting “for PLCLEGAL” at the start of the new thread. Best wishes, Peter