Rainscourt Family Law Solicitors

What is a Section 7 report and who writes it?

A Section 7 report is a report written by either a CAFCASS worker or a local authority social worker.  This type of report is used in court cases issued by one of the child’s parents, where they have been unable to reach an agreement with the other parent on an important issue. The court will be asked by the applicant parent to make decisions about a child.  There is a wide range of decisions which the court can be asked to make. Some of the most common decisions before a court are how a child should divide their time between the homes of their parents, whether a child can be taken overseas, and whether a child should change school. 

A Section 7 will be written by a social worker if the local authority is currently involved with the child or has been involved in the last 12 weeks due to preparation of a social work assessment or child in need or protection plan. In all other cases, CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) will prepare the report.

The court orders either CAFCASS or the local authority to prepare a Section 7 report, often at the FHDRA hearing (First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment).   It takes about 16 weeks to produce. The report will provide the court with recommendations about the decisions it will be making about the child.  The types of questions that the court will ask CAFCASS or the local authority to provide their opinion on may include with whom the children should live; whether the children should see the other parent; how often and for how long the children should see the other parent and the wishes and feelings of the children.  If there are particular allegations in the case, for example, allegations of parental alienation, the section 7 report will cover whether there is any evidence of alienation of the children by one parent. There is a list of particular points that the court will consider when determining an question about the upbringing of a child, and CAFCASS will consider these factors in their report, where relevant.  The factors include:

  1. The wishes and feelings of the child
  2. Physical , emotional and education needs of the child
  3. Likely effect on the child of any change in their circumstances
  4. The child’s age, sex, background and relevant characteristic
  5. Any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering
  6. How capable each of his parents is of meeting the child’s needs

The report should provide the child’s perspective for the court.  It will consider the impact of the dispute and conflict on the child.  This perspective can only be obtained by meeting and speaking with the child, usually without the parents present. The parents will also be interviewed and further information may be obtained from third parties such as the child’s school.

The court order will include the list of questions which need to be answered in the Section 7 report.  The preparation of this list of questions will be an important point for your legal representative to work on when preparing the draft order for the hearing.

If your case proceeds to a final hearing, the CAFCASS worker will usually attend the hearing, and will give evidence to the court about their report.  If there are points which you do not agree with in the report, your legal representative will ask the CAFCASS worker questions about the report whilst they are in the witness box.  These questions will highlight any concerns or weaknesses in the report, and will therefore support your preferred outcome.

Father & son
Father & son by Georgie Pauwels
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