What are family courts?
Family courts are there to make important decisions when families canít agree by themselves the arrangements for their children. Family courts are very different from criminal courts. Remember, you have done nothing wrong Ė whatís happening is not your fault.
What does CAFCASS do?
CAFCASSí job is to look after children and young peopleís interests in family courts. CAFCASS officers make sure your voice is heard in court. This helps the court make decisions that are best for you.
Who will come to see me?
A Children and Family Reporter from CAFCASS may be asked to help the court decide what is best for you. They may come and see you at home, and may also ask you to visit a CAFCASS office, where you can talk in private.
What will the Children and Family Reporter do?
The Children and Family Reporter will talk to you and ask you what you think about whatís happening. They will also talk to other people who care about you like your parents, teachers and relatives. They will try to help your parents listen to what you have to say and see if they can sort things out without too much arguing.
After the Children and Family Reporter has spoken to everyone, they will write a report for the court saying what they think is best for you.
What will the Children and Family Reporter ask me?
The Children and Family Reporter will talk about what you want, but will not ask you to decide what happens next or choose between your parents.
Is what I tell the Children and Family Reporter private?
What you say to the Children and Family Reporter may be used in the report they write for the court. All the information remains private to the court and the parties to the case (for example your parents and solicitors). The Children and Family Reporter cannot give information to anyone else without the courtís permission. If, however, the Children and Family Reporter thinks you could be harmed, they must tell the court and could contact Social Services so that they can help you. If youíre worried about any of this, you should speak to the Children and Family Reporter when you see them.
Do I have to go to court?
No. Children and young people are not usually asked to go to court because it is the job of the Children and Family Reporter from CAFCASS to make sure that your views are passed on to the judge. But if you do want to go to court yourself, or write a letter to the judge, tell the Children and Family Reporter.
Can I go to court if I want?
Children and young people have no right to attend a court hearing unless the judge says they can. Judges donít often agree to this as they are worried about the effect it may have on young people and their families. Sometimes the judge may decide that a young person should attend court. This isnít common either but it may happen in particularly difficult cases or when young people have very strong views and understand what is happening well enough to be able to give instructions to their own solicitor. If this is a possibility in your case then the Children and Family Reporter should discuss it with you.
What will happen in court?
The Children and Family Reporter will write a report for the court. In the report, the Children and Family Reporter will tell the Judge what you want and what they think is best for you. The judge will listen carefully to everyone, especially your mum and dad, and then try to decide what is best for you. This will help sort out where you should live and how you keep in contact with both your mum and dad.
Will the court do what I want?
Not necessarily. The court has to do what it thinks is best for you, which may not be the same as what you want. However, the court will give very careful thought to your wishes and feelings.
What will the judge do?
If your parents have managed to reach an agreement, the judge can decide that no further action is necessary, and he or she may not do anything more. However, if your parents still canít agree, the judge can make a Residence Order and/or a Contact Order.
What is a Residence Order?
This says who you should live with. Residence can be shared between parents.
What is a Contact Order?
This deals with arrangements for you visiting, phoning and having contact with the parent you donít live with, as well as other relatives, such as your grandparents.
What other orders can the court make?
As well as the main orders about contact and residence the court can make other orders. In many cases it can do so whether or not someone has asked for them. Read more about these other orders by visiting ĎThe Law about Childrení section of this site. It is also important to know that the court may decide not to make an order at all. It is not allowed to do so unless it considers that making an order would be better for the child than making no order.
Will my brothers and sisters be split up?
This should not happen unless there is some really special reason. Children and Family Reporters and the courts know that most brothers and sisters want to stay together Ė even if they argue sometimes!
What happens after the court case is over?
Your parents will usually tell you what the judge has decided, although sometimes the Children and Family Reporter might tell you. They will explain how the judgeís decision will affect you. The Children and Family Reporterís job is then over.