Child arrangements and cafcass
Good morning everyone,
I stumbled upon this website just yesterday and I spent hours and hours going through forum chats.
Some lovely and very dedicated dads out here who have learnt so much from their experience and I was hoping to get some advice please.
So this is my story, my daughter was born in 2019 and 10 months later my wife was unfortunately diagnosed with terminal cancer. The best year of our lives suddenly became the worst.
I was looking after our daughter while my wife would go for chemotherapy every month and after her chemotherapy, she would spend a couple weeks and her mother's to recover then come back home.
After just over a year of this routine and with her health deteriorating slowly, she suddenly took our daughter to her mother's house and filed for divorce.
I took legal help and I was truthful about everything from the start with my solicitor. I was banned from driving for just over a year for having cannabis in my system.
At FHDRA they ordered a drug test covering 6 months and for it to be segmented. They also asked for Mental health checks etc.
They said because I had lost my driving license a few months after the cancer diagnosis due to cannabis use, they will allow supervised contact once a week for the time being. I requested for twice a week and they agreed. All at my expense including the HST
I had admitted cannabis use but they had also alleged cocaine and excessive alcohol use, which I denied.
I got the hair strand test done for cannabis, cocaine and alcohol covering 6 months and they were all negetive. Nothing detected at all as I had quit smoking and drinking because I did not want it to become the reason for my daughter to be deprived of her father.
I was never overdoing any of this anyway and I was not addicted in any sense so made sense to just not do it at all.
I live in a small town and there are no supervised contact centres here and I have to have a supervisor come from a nearby city and I have to pay for their travelling time and fuel. This amounts to about £2500 per month for approx 13 to 15 hours a month.
Contact centre reports are very positive.
Had my DRA hearing last month and we tried for shared custody as prior to her "abduction", I was taking her to a private nursery twice a week and her nursery reports were very positive as well so no reason to believe I'm an unfit parent, especially after the negative drug tests.
Her barrister said this is all too good to be true and suggested we do another drug test. The judge said there is no need but asked for a Section 7 report and an adjourned DRA in a couple of months.
I have already had a safeguarding interview with cafcass several months back so what's with the section 7 report now? How is that different? They have my HST reports from a very reputable laboratory and they show no metabolites for anything. The contact centre reports are very good.
What should I be expecting guys?
What do I need to do to be ready for a good chat with cafcass.
Should I be represented by a barrister on the next hearing as the last 2 barristers didn't do much at the hearings. They didn't even go through the brief properly as they didn't know the full story of my case.
Looking forward to your input.
when a parent applies for a child arrangement order, cafcass have an initial brief call, where they want to find out what issues are, and do police checks. the section 7 report is more in depth, they assess both parents and also speak to children depending on their age, to find out their wishes and feelings. your interview with cafcass could be 30-60 minutes. how old is your child?
for your s7 interview, I would recommend before hand that you complete a parenting plan that can be found on cafcasss site: https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-ups/parents-and-carers/divorce-and-separation/parenting-together/parenting-plan/
would suggest you mention the plan during your interview, and send it to them. here are some tips for talking to cafcass: http://www.thecustodyminefield.com/flapp/tipsmeetingcafcass.html
also would suggest you do a position statement, for the arrangements your seeking, and also send that to cafcass. would be good to keep it 100% child-focused.
I appreciate your input bill.
My daughter is 2 and a half years old.
I am seeking joint custody and I will take your advice and look up the 2 links you sent.
Any further advice from you or anyone else would be greatly appreciated.