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Parents whose relationship has broken down are encouraged to keep a civil relationship. The unfortunate truth is that when couples split, they can find it difficult to agree on arrangements that are best for their children. It is important to come to a fair agreement on what the arrangements will be. Not only for the wellbeing of the children, but also for the future of your family.

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) is a government-run agency put together to represent the wellbeing of children in family court cases in England. Cafcass will become involved in cases only at the request of the court. Cafcass work independently of the courts, social services, education, health authorities and all similar agencies.

Initially, advice will be given to work together work together to reach an agreement without further court proceedings. This agreement may involve a Parenting Plan, designed to help parents focus on making child arrangements without having to return to Court. Agreed between parties individually, or with the help of a dispute-resolution service, parenting plans set out practical decisions about the care of any children including:

· Communication and overcoming differences

· Living arrangements – who will the children spend time with (this includes other family members such as grandparents), how often and when

· Money

· Religion

· Education

· Healthcare

· Emotional Wellbeing

If both parties are able to reach an amicable agreement and the court is satisfied, it may be possible to end the process by making a “consent order”. Should an agreement not be made, the court may refer both parties to a mediation meeting to assist in reaching an agreement. During mediation, an independent mediator will help both parties work an agreement. During cases where an initial agreement cannot be made, many have found mediation to be quicker and less stressful than having to go to court. 

For more information on this area, please see our detailed Step-by-Step Guide to Family Law 

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