Cafcass continues to manage a higher number of children’s cases. The number of active open children’s cases at the end of January 2023 was 33,240, which is 10.3% higher than it was in March 2020. The prioritisation protocol evaluation report noted that the Covid-19 pandemic amplified pressures across the Family Justice System that were “already building before it began”.

A Focused Visit by Ofsted in January, which examined how Cafcass has managed increased demand, found that the quality of practice had been maintained and, in some areas, further improved.

When a parent ignores court order for shared parenting


When a parent ignores a court order for shared parenting, they may be in contempt of court. Contempt of court is a legal term that refers to the willful disregard or disobedience of a court order or directive.

If one parent fails to comply with a court order for shared parenting, the other parent may file a motion for contempt with the court. The court may then schedule a hearing to determine whether the parent is in contempt and what sanctions or penalties should be imposed.

The sanctions for contempt of court can vary depending on the circumstances and the severity of the violation. The court may order the non-compliant parent to pay fines or court costs, complete community service, or even face imprisonment. The court may also modify the parenting plan or custody arrangement to address the non-compliance and ensure the best interests of the child.

It’s important to note that if a parent is having difficulty complying with a court order for shared parenting, they may be able to seek a modification of the order. A modification may be appropriate if there has been a significant change in circumstances, such as a relocation or a change in work schedule, that makes it difficult to comply with the existing order.

In any case, it’s essential to work with an experienced family law attorney who can help navigate the legal system and protect the best interests of the child.

©Linda Turner 2023

Identifying the signs of parental alienation

Any professional reading the above cases should ask themselves whether they would have picked up on the warning signs?  In addition to major warning signs, which when summarised can seem so clear, there may be cases in which this is in fact far more subtle. Such subtle indicators were seen in Re D itself. In father’s evidence he indicated that D had become privy to information that he believed D to be unaware of and was questioning how he came to find out such information. This information related to a historic drink driving offence that the father had been convicted of and which was used by D to undermine the father’s character in his evidence. This is an example of one parent drip feeding negative information about the other parent to manipulate the child’s view of them. Another subtle behaviour that has been identified is where one parent repeatedly demonises normal, excusable behaviour by the other parent. For example, where one parent takes their child to swimming lessons or sports competitions and makes remarks such as, “I hope your mother/father can be bothered to turn up”, or “I hope your mother/father doesn’t let you down again”, therefore resulting in the child becoming upset and feeling let down when the other parent has not been able to make it, usually for some good reason, such as a medical appointment or busy traffic or where they were never infact told they could attend. Hopefully however with training in place for CAFCASS and children law professionals and the wide reporting of cases such as Re A, D and L the early warning signs may be taken notice of. Earlier identification and response by professionals may have prevented the level of harm suffered by D in this case, and the relationship may have been left at least rectifiable.  Continue reading “Identifying the signs of parental alienation”

Family Courts Uncovered

Judges and magistrates in the Family Court in England and Wales have to make extremely difficult decisions about what is best for children if their parents cannot agree on the arrangements for the children on or after parental separation or divorce. The family courts have seen a steady increase in such applications since 2014, with 55,645 private law children applications made in 2020 (Government Justice Data, 2021). While courts make great efforts to reach decisions that are in children’s best interests, there may be cases where the process and decisions do not best serve children and parents in this discretionary area of law. However, if there are problems with the process or decisions made, the public cannot usually know about this. Section 12 of the Administration of Justice Act 1960 stipulates that the publication of information relating to proceedings brought under the Children Act 1989 is a contempt of court. This legislation, which is intended to protect children, means that nothing about a case can be reported without the court’s permission.

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Enforced Removals

No figures exist on how many enforced removals take place, so Dispatches sent an FOI to Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service and to every police force to try to find out:

  • The Courts and Tribunals Service said it would be “too costly to answer the question”
  • Out of the 46 police forces just two said it was possible to give us figures.
  • Between them they identified 24 enforced removals over five years but indicated there could be more.

Dispatches also conducted the largest ever survey of legal professionals practicing family law, asking them about their experiences of the various levels of court

We asked 297 experienced family solicitors and barristers about this type of forced removal

  • They reported they had witnessed 42 orders for this type of removal over the last 3 years.

There are at least 13,000 solicitors and barristers practising family law in England and Wales.

What happens when the case closes?

Another really important discussion we had focussed on what happens when a case is closed but the abuse is ongoing, and the child is not happy. One of our members had a three-month supervised contact order put in place to protect her from the abusive behaviour of her father. Afterwards her dad remained abusive, and she asked: “how does protecting children from abuse have a cut-off point? Supervised contact should only stop with changed behaviour, but his behaviour didn’t change.”

What has this story taught us?

  • In cases of abuse, courts should review the effectiveness of the court order in place.
  • Professionals should create a support network and a post-closure plan, so the young person can turn to someone when they feel things aren’t working out.


During the third webinar, 78% of FJYPB members felt their views were overlooked by professionals in their proceedings. Shouldn’t such a big decision influencing a child’s life be guided by the child themselves?

We also discussed how the Family Courts tend to be parent-led and can have a ‘pro-contact’ culture, leaving the child feeling ignored. One board member said “they gave him even more control over me.”

To ensure decisions are made in the best interest of the child, I think it is important to:

  • Ask ‘what does the child want?’ – let the child express themself through letters, pictures or speaking to them directly without their parents.
  • Remember that case files are not the child speaking; get a first-hand account of the child – they were there, the social worker wasn’t.

Cafcass Co-Parent Hub content transferred to Cafcass website

A range of valuable content and tools providing advice and support to families who are separating or co-parenting is now available on the Cafcass website.

The parenting together section gives parents and families access to a range of information and educational programmes to help families understand the needs of children when parents separate, and the impact of conflict on them. It can help with seeking mediation, advice on how to effectively co-parent and out of court options.

My Positive Experience of Cafcass

Stuart tells us about his split from his wife and subsequent experiences with Cafcass:

I’m writing this on Christmas Eve, sat at my PC with just a daft German Shepherd for company. It’s the first Christmas in eight years that I haven’t heard the buzz of excited children in the house. Don’t feel sorry for me, though – life is good and full of endless opportunity and laughter. I wanted to write this, as it’s a story of hope and proof that, sometimes, the system can be fair on dads.

Continue reading “My Positive Experience of Cafcass”

Submissions, evaluations, cross-examination and ‘expand and explain’

Mrs Justice Parker indicated that she was entitled to evaluate the wishes and feelings of the child. Here, those ‘wishes and feelings’ amount to the child making ‘submissions’, not adducing evidence, and so questions about these submissions were not ‘cross-examination’, but just an attempt to get the child to ‘expand and explain’.

Now, on the face of it, that seems ok, because the Guidance makes clear that it is not the purpose of the meeting to glean evidence. As counsel for the mother argued though, whatever the purpose of the meeting, evidence was going to come out. Indeed, it is hard to see how that could be avoided. So Mrs Justice Parker did procure evidence and did then rely on that evidence in coming to her decision.

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