What Can You do if You Disagree With a Section 7 Report in Children Law Proceedings? banner


What Can You do if You Disagree With a Section 7 Report in Children Law Proceedings?

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When you read a Section 7 report prepared in children law proceedings by a CAFCASS officer it can be hard to work out your best options if you disagree with what is said about you in the report or with the report recommendations. In this blog our family law solicitors examine what you can do if you disagree with a section 7 report.

Online and London Family Law Solicitors and Children Lawyers

For expert children law legal advice and court representation call the London family lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form .

What is a section 7 report?

A section 7 report is ordered by the court in some children law applications to help the family judge decide what children law orders are in a child’s best interests.

The report is referred to as a ‘section 7 report’ because the report is ordered under section 7 of the Children Act 1989.

The section 7 report is prepared by a CAFCASS officer or by a local authority social worker. In the vast majority of children law applications, the report is prepared by CAFCASS, an agency independent of the court and local authority, whose officers are social work trained to investigate matters such as child custody or contact where parents are in dispute over the best arrangements for their child.

If you have started a children law application, such as a child arrangement order or prohibited steps order or specific issue order application, or you are responding to the application, and a section 7 report has been ordered, it is best to take legal advice. By taking legal advice you can hopefully minimise the risk of your being unhappy with the eventual CAFCASS report.

For specialist children law advice call us on 0203 959 9123.

What does CAFCASS stand for?

CAFCASS is the abbreviation for the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. CAFCASS does not prepare a report in every children law case; only if the judge orders a report.

Will a section 7 report always be ordered?

As it can take a long time to get a report, the judge will only order a report if it is considered necessary. For example, a judge probably will not think a section 7 report is needed if the principle of contact is agreed but the parents cannot decide on whether contact should take place on a Saturday or on the Sunday or if the child should return at 5pm or 6pm.

If the principle of one parent having contact is in dispute, or serious allegations have been made, the judge will probably say they need a section 7 report to help them make a decision on what children law order is in the child’s best interests.

Does a family court always follow the recommendations in a section 7 report?

The family court does not always follow the recommendations in a section 7 report but the judge is more likely to do so than not. That is why it is best to take legal advice before the CAFCASS officer starts their investigations and interviews. Although the court is likely to follow the section 7 report recommendations it is possible to challenge a section 7 report and a parent should do so if they do not think the contents of the report are accurate or that the recommendations are in their child’s best interests.

 Challenging a section 7 report

If you receive a section 7 report that you disagree with it is best to reflect on the contents rather than calling the CAFCASS officer or sending an angry email. Think about whether the CAFCASS officer got their facts wrong (and whether the fact is important) or whether you disagree with their interpretation of facts and recommendations or you disagree with the approach taken by the CAFCASS officer in preparing the report.

For example, you may think that the CAFCASS officer was wrong to conclude that you had limited parenting skills or emotional ties to your child if the CAFCASS officer did not observe a contact visit between you and your child as part of their report investigations, and instead they have reported what the other parent said and accepted it as fact. Alternatively, you may not think that the CAFCASS officer has considered all the welfare checklist factors that they should have considered or given sufficient weight to them, for example, the wishes and feelings of your child. One option is to ask the court to order the CAFCASS officer to file an addendum report to address outstanding areas.

If the children law application proceeds to a contested final hearing, your children lawyer will be able to ask the CAFCASS officer questions and those questions will be based on your review of the section 7 report and your input. A court has to order a CAFCASS officer to attend a final hearing so it is important that your children law solicitor and the judge know that you want to challenge the report.

A parent can also challenge a section 7 report by making a complaint to CAFCASS. A complaint can be made during or after the children law proceedings but it is best to speak to your children law solicitor before making a complaint as the timing or the content of the complaint may be counterproductive to your application and it is crucial to avoid that.

Online and London Family Law Solicitors and Children Lawyers

For children law legal advice and representation call the expert London family lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form .

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