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Section 7 Report in Final Hearing
Hi All,

I've been separated from my wife for  9 months. The initial court order stated that I could have access to my children for 11.5 hours per week over 3 days, with no overnights. Prior to the separation, I was a hands on Dad who was heavily involved in bringing up our children. Before the initial court order I had even less access and it wasn't prearranged (I was expected to jump at the last minute if required by their mum) so I have had to fight for every single bit of access which has been granted.

I spoke to CAFCASS and I received a Section 7 report last month which I thought was very fair. I have read a lot that CAFCASS haven't been fair in some cases and I can only comment on my experiences, but I was very impressed with their input after originally being very sceptical. The Section 7 report stated that I wasn't being unreasonable with what I was asking for (Every 2nd weekend - Friday - Monday, 2 nights per week every week & half school holidays). I am in a lucky position as a flexible home worker who can work around looking after our kids (aged 2, 4 & 6).

I now have a final hearing date after my ex-partner totally disagreed with the CAFCASS report in the interim hearing (she is still throwing accusations of physical, emotional & financial abuse). My question is how likely is it for the court to go with the CAFCASS report? And are their any general reasons why they'd choose not to?

Many thanks in advance for any feedback you can provide.
Providing informed, independent advice on case details is what CAFCASS is supposed to be there for, so the court is highly likely to go with the CAFCASS report. They possibly might not if one side can prove that CAFCASS is demonstrably wrong in their understanding of the facts, have ignored something crucial, or that the conclusions clearly don't follow what the facts say. But the court's default approach is usually that CAFCASS's advice should be followed, unless they can be convinced otherwise.
Many thanks for your feedback. My understanding is that my ex-partners solicitor is going to try to undermine the CAFCASS report in our final hearing and that's what I'm worried about. I've tried to look at it from both perspectives and to be honest, I can't see anything that can be undermined in the report.

I'm going to keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best. It will be almost a year since separation before our final hearing and with limited access it's been a real struggle. I just hope this difficult situation will have an happy ending for my kids.

I'm in same position as you, with almost the same pattern. CAFCASS report came down strongly in my favour, ex is trying to undermine it. The court haven't been impressed at all with her so far.

Have a look at these stats:

In summary, the court follows CAFCASS about 90% of the time, and the other 10% there are complicating factors. My solicitor says there has only been one case in her whole career where they have significantly gone against it.

My advice is to brainstorm every potentially credible line of attack she could come up with, and try to deal with it in your next position statement. So stuff like claiming you won't have time to care for them properly, spell out a timetable. Ignore the obvious mud slinging. It will count against her. I have a final hearing coming up soon but things have already improved immeasurably since CAFCASS got involved.

Also don't be afraid to talk to the CAFCASS officer and ask her advice on stuff. They are there for your kids and they genuinely want to help in my experience. Remember that if wants to undermine the CAFCASS report, the officer will have to give evidence, to work hard to keep showing them they have made the right recommendation in their report.

What you are asking for looks like shared care, so it's important that even if your ex is unreasonable, you show that you are genuinely trying to work with her and promote a good relationship between her and the kids.
Thanks Marwood. The CAFCASS officer has been requested to attend court on our final hearing to provide evidence. I have kept it child focused during this difficult time and my ex has continued to sling mud throughout the whole process so I am hoping that this will help my case.

I will brainstorm and look for any lines of attack her solicitor could take and ensure these are detailed in my position statement. During the last few months, my ex has breached the court order around 15 times (some of these are major breaches - i.e. changing days with a days notice). Is this something which I should highlight in my position statement or should I just concentrate on what I'm doing to make things workable for access?

I must say that this has been the hardest part of the last 9 months. It does seem as though she can breach at anytime and no one seems to care, even when I provide proof of breaches (text messages & e-mails). My solicitor keeps telling me that we'll keep documenting it (so potentially we can use this in the future) which I know is sensible to do, but it seems crazy to me that a court order is in place and it can be continuously breached without any consequences.

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