What is a section 7 report? Is it going to screw me over?
As part of your court hearing the judge, or magistrates, may instruct a section 7 report.
This is usually conducted by someone from CAFCASS, however, if social services are currently involved in the case they may be asked to complete it, as was in a personal case of mine. Our social worker had really got to know both sides us well, so I felt it worked in our favour considerably.
The social worker will have specific instructions from the court as to what information they need to provide, you will also be privy to this information. So, despite any previous reports you can look at, the information will always be different.
They will have to spend time with all parties, including the children. They may even speak to the children alone, depending on their age and understanding. They will get in touch with teachers and any other professionals that may be needed, if they have contact with the children.
One thing they should NOT do is ask your children to pick between you and the other party.
In the majority of cases, you should be able to see the report before the hearing. This can either put your mind at rest, or prepare you for any questions that may be asked. It also helps you in preparing your statements.
The court will use the report to help them form a decision, they will not always go with what the report suggests.
If you are not happy with what the report has written you can complain to CAFCASS or child services.
If you are not happy with the court’s decision you must raise this at court.
Do CAFCASS know what they are doing?
They are fully qualified social workers, who have certain rules and regulations to follow. I know that this can sometimes make it seem that there is no “human” element to their process and their decisions.
My personal experience with a section 7 report has been positive, but I don’t want to come across biased!
Usually if one person’s experience is positive, the other persons is negative.
Which isn’t right.
Ideally, if the children have been put first in all situations, everyone should be happy, but that isn’t always the case.
It can feel like negotiations. Like you've got to start at the top and work your way down. Even if you want to go for shared residency, you need to fight for the top place of sole residency and negotiate your way down!
I'm not going to lie and say that isn't how it works, but if you continue to have the child and their best interests at heart, the judge will be able to see that. Don't put any of your anxieties or frustrations above the children's best interests.
You're worried the father won't hand the child back? Does your anxiety associated with that go ahead of your child's interest to have both parents in their life? No!
Do you hate the mother so much that you want to see her hurt? That is not and never will be more important than your child feeling the love of both of their parents!
They have been able to help many fathers be re-united with their children, as was in our case.
One thing that may frustrate you, is the time it takes for the report to be completed. In fact, the whole court process can seem to go on and on, for years even.
It can take around 10 weeks for the report to be compiled, however, there are many instances where they may ask for an extension. Keeping calm and continuing to be helpful, rather than getting frustrated, is the favourable position to be in.
Unfortunately, there is no right or wrong way to prepare for the report. Only to behave normally and be completely yourself.
If you need any further assistance with your court proceedings, or with any child contact issues please, get in touch.