Families Need Fathers urges Cafcass to back shared parenting

Cafcass was today urged to promote the involvement of both parents in children’s lives after separation unless there is a good reason for not doing so.

In tandem with Cafcass, campaign group Families Need Fathers has published guidance for family court practitioners after a poll of 500 of its members found 95% felt inadequately supported by Cafcass and the family courts.

The guidance, which will be distributed to Cafcass staff across the country, says the organisation is often perceived as believing “that only one parent ‘cares’ while the other parent is simply a source of finance for the caring”.

Overnight contact

Instead, practitioners should support shared parenting, under which both parents spend a significant amount of time with their child, usually including overnight contact, and are involved in key decisions, including about schooling, health and hobbies.

Cafcass chief executive Anthony Douglas said: “Cafcass has greatly valued the chance to work closely with Families Need Fathers on the development of shared parenting guidance. We are sharing this guidance with our staff which draws on this work.”

Backing from Equality and Human Rights Commission

Families Need Fathers today launched a campaign on the issue, Shared Parenting – Shared Benefits, which is funded by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The guidance says research shows fathers’ involvement in children’s lives is associated with better educational attainment, reduced involvement with the police and children growing up to have more satisfactory adult relationships.

Domestic violence

It acknowledges that shared parenting is not appropriate in cases where “proven domestic violence and/or child abuse are currently involved”.

However, it says that “past events should not be seen as automatically ruling out shared parenting” and that courts need to ensure that allegations of abuse are substantiated, given “practice experience of ill-founded allegations being made”.

Ofsted safeguarding criticisms

The guidance follows significant criticism of Cafcass’s performance in safeguarding children in cases of parental separation involving domestic violence in a string of Ofsted inspection reports.

Families Need Fathers has also produced guidance for teachers and parents who represent themselves in court.

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