Anyone else feel thoroughly shafted by CAFCASS?(12 Posts)
I'm going through what I think is fair to say is a pretty difficult separation from my son's father; not least because I am certain that my ex has serious undiagnosed psychiatric problems - various members if his own family have said to me on separate occasions that he's 'never been right in the head'. I was fairly cynical about the courts process and prepared that the nuances of his emotional state (my diagnosis, in no way professional, is that he suffers from some form of personality disorder and falls somewhere on the autism scale - he has always been focussed on outward appearance over reality, seeming to see it as better to kiss me by force that for me not to kiss him goodbye) would not be picked up on and tried my very hardest for almost 18 months to reach a resolution with him through mediation (he wants 50/50 split and shared residence) but he has been determined to prolong everything so that he can maintain his control over every aspect of my life and to punish me for leaving him.
So we are going through the courts now and a full CAFCASS section 7 report commissioned (there have been numerous incidents I've reported to the police with him ripping my screaming little boy from my arms, leaving him locked in the car whilst he accuses me of having fictitious affairs, refusing to leave my property etc etc).
I was quite open with the CAFCASS worker in acknowledging that I didn't expect a final hearing to really reach a proper verdict on his emotional state since outwardly he comes across as very devoted, charming, is holding down a job (a complete Jekyll and Hyde) and was prepared for her to recommend in his favour - really the extent of our differences comes down to two extra overnight stays with him over 4 weeks, such is the amount I have compromised to try and agree something. What I was not prepared for was for her to totally omit any reference to any of the concerns I raised with her.
The report reads like a case for the defence. She has made a recommendation in his favour and then been completely selective about the evidence she has had from me in order to justify her decision. I am totally floored reading it and feel totally shattered. I was prepared that the recommendation mighty not go in my favour because of a lack of concrete evidence but feel utterly betrayed and misrepresented by the total omission of any of the concerns I raised.
Sorry for such a long post but I wondered if anyone else had had a similar experience and how they dealt with it? I feel totally powerless in that the report has been filed already with the courts and so effectively the damage is done - it feels like my contesting it might compound her caricature of me as an obstructive bitch who only moved in with ds father because I got pregnant (the first point she makes in the section where she apparently presents my case). I have emailed her directly to state some of my concerns and have an appointment to review with my solicitor , but she has indicated to me that the only option really is to formally contest it through final hearing which I really can't afford, and which I fear means he has more to cling on to in terms of his refusal to accept the separation and move on.
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You can always challenge a CAFCASS report in court. The CAFCASS officer isn't the judge. If you have reasonable grounds for arguing against the report's conclusions the judge will listen. Make sure the CAFCASS officer is ordered to attend the final hearing so that they can be cross examined.
Have you thought about rquesting his medical records on MH grounds. I was in exactly the same position as you (eventually came out good for me but only because he did not turn up to court and cooperate but took 6.5 years!). When our medical records were produced there was past stuff to be concerned about and you can also ask for a family psychologist's report too. Do not argue with the Officer I did this and a big mistake but eventually she had to say to my face she was wrong about him but only because he fucked up.... Do contest the report though, you have nothing to lose but requesting medical records is a good thing as it will slow down the process whilst they try to get the whole picture.
Thank you all for your responses. I think I'll just have to accept it too, Anna, galling as it feels I doubt that the outcome would be different even if she had represented more of my concerns. I really don't think a protracted fight is in anyone's best interests - your 6.5 years sounds like an ordeal Flimflam, glad it came good for you eventually. I did challenge back via email but kept it brief and got someone else to check the email before I sent it and I kept it brief, (and calm!) but will keep my concerns to be aired by solicitor now.
I had an awful experience with CAFCASS many years ago and still feel negative towards them to this very day.
I separated from my husband who was basically a complete narcissist and professional gaslighter. To the rest of the world this man was charm personified but scratch the surface and he was rotten to the core.
I put my faith in the "system" and expected them to not be blinded by the Oscar worthy performance that I knew he would present to the officer. I spoke to the officer about my concerns that no matter what conditions were put in place I knew my ex would not adhere to them because he did not believe in anyone telling him what to do. I tried to tell them that the whole reason I had left him was because I had come to realize there was something very dark and odd about him.
I was happy for my ex to have lots of day contact with our children but not overnight. I was sick of the children not going to sleep until "the birds were singing" a direct quote from my then 9 year old DD, they were also not being fed or washed or generally cared for properly.
There was always strange people in his house each evening and my DD was uncomfortable with the situation. Even child and family services recommended that he should not have the children overnight.
CAFCAS's report encouraged the judge to rule in favour of every other weekend Fri - Sun and 2 weeks in summer. I was devastated and when this contact took place my ex would not allow me to even ring to wish my children goodnight.
As much as it killed me I allowed the contact. My solicitor told me that as long as I did not engage with him at all he would get bored playing the doting dad and find something else to fixate on. He also agreed that their was something wrong with my ex.
Fast forward 1 year and then I had the police and social services at my door. My ex had been involved with a 15 year old girl (he was 45) and they had disappeared. It turns out he had been having a relationship with this girl and had been holding parties at his house with her teenage friends. He was tried in crown court and was put on the sex offenders register for seven years and all contact was ceased immediately.
My children have not seen their father for over 7 years. They do not recieve birthday or Christmas cards off him. He has never paid a penny in support since the day I left him. He is nobody to them.
OP please dont give up hope. It sounds as if your partner has to be in control and is therefore using the children as a weapon against you as they are (and always will be) your achilles heel. Try to detach as much as possible and not engage with him at all unless it is essential child issues. When bullies get no reaction they get bored. Try to stay strong and get as much help as possible.
Sorry for the stupidly long post.
Wow, Sassy, makes my fruit-loop ex sound like quite a nice bloke. I hope that you and your children are happier now that he is out of your lives. You have summed the situation up perfectly in your last sentence. I know deep down I'll look back on this time as a bad memory and you may well be right that in time he'll tire of the bullying but it can feel hard when you're in the midst of something you care so much about and feel so totally bound by people outside. (Not totally innocent of some control-freakery myself!) thanks for the words of wisdom, and allowing me to vent. and an early night I think after all this emotion spent.... Thanks Mumsnetters!
My husband had a dreadful time with CAFCASS in a dispute over residency with his ex. He was awarded interim residency and the process to final hearing took a year. The CAFCASS officer was pretty stupid, made assumptions that were clearly based on her own prejudices and ignored utterly shocking behaviour on the part of his ex that had social services suggesting to him he go to court to apply to have parental responsibility removed from her. She wrote an interim report that was highly in favour of his ex, and told him informally she would be recommending his ex had residency in her final report. The interim report contained all the bizarre accusations his ex had made with no mitigation whatsoever, for example the ex had claimed he was an alcoholic, which was included, but with no mention that he's taken a hair strand test which revealed this to be untrue.
She had failed to consult either of the children's schools, social services, anyone involved in the children's lives apart from their maternal grandparents or other relevant professionals. My husband got them all to pro-actively contact her. One of the schools told her that if his ex was given residency they would immediately contact social services to report a child at risk. This did not make it into her final report. However, after all this she was forced to recommend residency in his favour, and even told him she'd always intended to do so. She performed very poorly in court, angered the judge when the remark from the school came out and afterwards admitted to my husband's solicitor that she didn't agree with the criticisms of him she had included in the report.
Sorry, long rant, but I can understand how you feel. During the period when the interim report was on the table, my husband's solicitor kept saying that this was NOT the final decision and that it would not stand up in court. I realise your situation is different as this was over 'full' residency and no compromise whatsoever was possible, so fighting just to see reservations in the report may well not be worth it, but the CAFCASS report is not necessarily the end.
i have had some good cafcass officers but a completely CRAP one too, she verbally abused my children was rude to me even smoked in front of my children. she toatally went against all the phyc reports socail services and previous cafcass reports. she put contact back in even though my children hadnt seen there father for several years and didnt want any contact with there abusive father. she told my children that i was a bad mother to them. then after putting in contact and only one of three went ( which was not sucessful as exp v. aggresive with ds) did not take any of my calls of even speak to the child concerned but filed a report six months later saying contact was sucessful and that i was abusing my children WTF!!!! i was advised not to put a complaint in against this women as she had a reputation for being very nasty when crossed and told if i did she would then most likely reccomend custody to the father!! my children are all teenagers BTW. she did not listen to any of then re past abuse said they were making it all up there fathr woudnt do such a thing!
Two extra overnight stays in 4 weeks isn't a lot. Why not go with it & see how things turn out in practice?
Oh my word! I have had a similar experience to you - I'm still going through it. Same ex - charming, plausible, concerned personified, but he just wants control over me and my daughter (he was abusive hence my reasons for leaving him, but he just won't leave). He has twisted all the info and evidence so much so that my years of abuse, witnessed by friends, was totally overlooked and his 'emotional trauma' at not having complete access to my daughter cited as grounds for giving him what he wants. The Section 7 report was biased. I challenged it with the Team Leader. Luckily the team leader was on my side even coming to court with me on one hearing to say Social Services didn't have time to file an amended report, but at the last contact hearing the old report was used and I was shafted because ex had a good barrister who twisted the facts.
So, if you are due to go into court, then take along all the evidence, and do question the CAFCASS officer. Thoroughly. It won't make it worse. It will show her up for being unprofessional. It will highlight the imbalance. If you do not challenge it, you will regret it. And then I suggest you write a formal complaint about the way the Officer handled your case. (Mine took no notes while she was with me, yet included all his accusations against me with no evidence whatsoever. She thought I was just a middle class woman who had it good and what did I have to complain about. The fact that I had suffered abuse was dropped by the wayside because I didn't fit the profile of the working-class abused woman).
If it stays on your file as you being the perpetrator / your ex being the victim, then it will forever haunt you in all your dealings. And it will be very difficult for you to move on from this injustice. Mine sense of injustice is still very raw as it happened merely two weeks ago.
And your ex will use this as the new baseline to conduct all future dealings - he will feel empowered to continue in his nasty way.
Let me know how it goes for you. I want to ask what local authority you fall under as it would be interesting to see if we have had the same people dealing with the cases.
Oh, and you can formally contest it at the final hearing by representing yourself. You don't need a solicitor. You just need to be prepared and totally on the ball. I was prepared, but I got two documents from the ex's barrister as we were about to enter court. I didn't have time to read them and didn't know I could ask for time. That's why I got shafted.
But you can. So, go to court, armed with all your info. Question the CAFACSS officer on all points, stating all the omissions and asking her to justify her actions.
Tell the judge/recorder that you need a few minutes to think about what has been said/done. You can have as many five minutes as you need because you will be defending yourself.
Tell the judge/recorder that your account is truthful, and that the reason you want to leave him is because of his unacceptable behaviour.
If you do not fight here, then you will have a bigger fight along the way because your ex is a controlling abuser.