Operation of the Family Courts - Justice Committee Contents


Written evidence from Paul Baddeley (FC 03)

The effects of Cafcass's operations on court proceedings, and the impact on the courts of the sponsorship of Cafcass by the Department of Education

I do not able to comment on the sponsorship by the Department of Education sponsorship. Cafcass added no value and seem to protect what the resident parent wants and set about ensuring that this happens. Cafcass say that they "protect the interests of children" in my case it was to protect the interests of the resident parent. Cafcass believed everything the resident parent said and disbelieved and challenged everything that the non-resident parent said.

The communication (Cafcass officers would openly slag off the court) between the court and Cafcass was awful. At a Directions hearing I supplied a copy of the completed Cafcass report to the Court has the court said they had received one from Cafcass. The report contained no firm recommendations (other than things should carry on as they were for now—despite one son saying to Cafcass he wanted to see dad more [included in Cafcass report]) and made it very difficult for the court to decide.

Also, the court asked Cafcass to look at shared parenting and contact. Cafcass decided only to look at contact.

The impact on court proceedings and access to justice of recent and proposed changes to legal aid

I have nothing to say on this. Except to say parents arrangements for looking after their children should not be a legal matter and should not involve courts/solicitors. This would say courts a lot of money. Easy to access (and freellow cost) mediation is key.

The role, operation and resourcing of mediation and other methods in resolving matters before they reach court I was directed to mediation when I made the application to court. Mediation is encouraged by everyone but mothers with possession can decided not to knowing that they will get everything and continue to have possession of the children.

We should learn from proactive countries like Australia, France, Denmark, Belgium and a number of US states and have a presumption of shared parenting and give parents easy quick access to free or low cost mediation services. Shared parenting ensures that one parent is not able to dominate the lives of the children at the expense of the other or to control the other parent via the children. Each parent has legal and moral equality.

Confidentiality and openness in family courts, including the impact of the recent changes in the Children's, Schools and Families Act 2010

No experience of openness but it can only help but does not solve the main issue that there is no presumption of shared parenting in place and that resident parents allegations are treated as fact by Cafcass and decisions are made by Cafcass on this basis without robust evidence. Where is the openness and accountability of Cafcass?

I would like to see the following recommendations:

1.  Ensure that a pro-active approach that parents must follow on the basis of a presumption of shared parenting. This involves compulsory access to mediation services (free low-cost means tested) that are not part of the justice system. Parenting is not about the law it is about parenting.

  • 2.  A legal presumption of shared parenting.
  • 3.  Scrapping of Cafcass and replacing it with easy and quick to access to mediation services that must be used before use of solicitors and courts.
  • 4.  Ensuring that information considered by the court is evidence based and recommendations are based on evidence.

September 2010



 
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