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Effective co-parenting is key to keeping children out of the courts: Cafcass

“Public health approach would help prevent cases from reaching crisis point”

A conference, held by Cafcass and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC), has today brought together over a hundred professionals from family justice and health and social care backgrounds to discuss best practice in co-parenting and how it can be used to support children in the modern age. Cafcass says that "now, more than ever, as traditional civic institutions are collapsing, there is an increasing reliance on the institution of the family. The state needs to re-examine its relationship with families in all shapes and forms, so that it's fit for purpose in the uncertain times we live in."

In view of the immense pressure on the Family Court, with more cases to process than there is resource, Cafcass has suggested that agencies from across the sector need to place a greater emphasis on co-parenting and find ways to support parents effectively so that they can prioritise the interests of their child, despite the stress they may be suffering during and after separation.

Cafcass analysis suggests that a third of separating families use the courts to resolve disputes about what should happen with their children, and the Family Court is seeing the number of these 'private law' cases increase each year. In this challenging environment, Cafcass says that effective co-parenting could be the answer.

In addition, Cafcass has suggested that a public health approach to the problem would help to prevent cases from reaching crisis point, with health and social care professionals working together in a more integrated way, to refer families to tailored evidence-based support in order to resolve difficulties at an earlier stage. To take this idea forward, the conference will consider how the current embryonic array of co-parenting services which tend to be 'too little for too long, and then too much too late' could be better coordinated and commissioned to ensure a more coherent early offer. One option is the development of a co-parenting alliance to encourage professionals to share their expertise and develop a co-parenting strategy to drive change. This idea is being taken forward by several organisations present at the conference, including Cafcass.

Cafcass Chief Executive, Anthony Douglas said:

"Toxic parenting is as much a social problem as domestic abuse and knife crime. Today's conference will allow us to confront and examine this issue and discuss some of the best ways to support effective co-parenting, so that children have the best upbringing possible as well as being kept out of the court system."

AFCC Executive Director, Peter Salem said:

"AFCC is pleased to partner with Cafcass on this issue, which is of critical importance to children and families."