PRACTICE DIRECTION 36F – PILOT SCHEME: PROCEDURE FOR USING STRUCTURED INTERVENTIONS BEFORE A FIRST HEARING DISPUTE RESOLUTION APPOINTMENT IN CERTAIN PRIVATE LAW PROCEEDINGS RELATING TO CHILDREN

This Practice Direction supplements FPR Part 36, rule 36.2 (Transitional Arrangements and Pilot Schemes).

Scope and interpretation

1.1. This Practice Direction is made under rule 36.2 and sets up a Pilot Scheme.

1.2. The Pilot Scheme applies to certain private law proceedings relating to children (as defined in FPR 12.2) where the following conditions are met:

a) The application is for either a section 8 order or an enforcement order; and

b) The application is filed at the Manchester Civil and Family Justice Centre between 22 January 2018 and 23 July 2018.

Purpose of the Pilot Scheme

2.1. The purpose of the Pilot Scheme is to assess the use of new practices and procedures to allow for structured interventions to take place before a First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA). The aim of the Pilot Scheme is to help families resolve disputes involving children without the need to attend Court, thus easing the burden of the Family Courts and benefiting the children and families involved.

2.2. The Pilot Scheme involves the following key stages:

(1) An assessment and screening stage, within which applications may be deemed as unsuitable to remain within the Pilot Scheme; and

(2) The intervention stage, within which parties participate in a tailored package of dispute resolution services before the FHDRA.

Modification of the FPR and Practice Directions during operation of the Pilot Scheme

3.1. During the operation of the Pilot Scheme the Family Procedure Rules 2010 and the Practice Direction supporting the Rules will apply to cases falling within the Pilot Scheme as modified by paragraphs 4.1 to 6.1.

Modification of Part 12 FPR

4.1.In Rule 12.2 insert –

“ ‘Pilot Scheme’ means the Pilot Scheme described in Practice Direction 36F.”

4.2. In Rule 12.32 substitute –

“Where an application has exited the Pilot Scheme described in Practice Direction 36F the respondent must file and serve on the parties an answer to the application for an order in private law proceedings at least 3 working days before the FHDRA is scheduled to take place.”

Modification of FPR Practice Direction 12B – “Child Arrangements Programme”

5.1. After paragraph 5.11, insert –

“5.11A

Where parties attend mediation which has been arranged by a Cafcass officer as part of the Pilot Scheme, the mediator  shall provide such information as the Cafcass officer  may request  in accordance with paragraph 24.8 provided the parties give their consent to do so.”

5.2. In paragraph 5.12, omit the word ‘however’.

5.3.For paragraph 8.9 substitute –

“The court shall send electronically to Cafcass a copy of the Form C100/C79 (and Form C1A if supplied) within one working day of receipt of a properly completed application, whereupon the safeguarding checks referred to in paragraph 13.3 will be commenced where appropriate. The C6 Notice of Hearing shall be sent electronically to Cafcass no later than 2 working days after the date of issue of the application.”

5.4.For paragraph 9.2 substitute –

“Within three working days of the date of receipt, applications shall be considered in accordance with the following procedure:

(1)There shall be an initial screening by a Cafcass officer to determine whether it would be appropriate for the application to remain within the Pilot Scheme;

(2)Thereafter there shall be a joint assessment of suitability for the intervention stage of the Pilot Scheme by the Cafcass officer and a nominated Legal Adviser and/or nominated District Judge in accordance with paragraph 24.1.

5.5.After paragraph 9.2 insert:

“9.2A

Applications which exit the Pilot Scheme at step (1) above shall be considered by a nominated legal advisor and/or nominated District Judge (‘the Gatekeepers’) in accordance with the appropriate Rules of Procedure.”

5.6. Paragraph 13.2 is omitted.

5.7. In paragraph 13.3 after the word ‘parties’ insert –

“such safeguarding checks to be requested immediately upon receipt of the application by Cafcass.”.

5.8. For paragraph 13.5 substitute –

“Cafcass shall record and outline any safety issues for the court. Where agreement is reached between the parties before the FHDRA, the Cafcass officer shall provide the court with a written endorsement of this agreement which will include the outcome of safeguarding checks. Where the application has exited the Pilot Scheme, the Cafcass officer shall file a safeguarding letter at court at least 3 working days before the FHDRA.”

5.9. Paragraph 13.7 is omitted.

5.10. For paragraph 14.3 substitute –

“For cases which have exited the Pilot Scheme, the respondent should file the response no later than 3 working days before the FHDRA.”

5.11.After paragraph 22.1 insert –

“22.1A

Working Day 2: Initial screening of application by a Cafcass officer to determine whether it would be appropriate for the application to remain within the Pilot Scheme. Applications deemed to be inappropriate will exit the Pilot Scheme and will be considered by the Gatekeeping team in accordance with paragraph 22.2.”

5.12. In paragraph 22.2 substitute “Working Day 3” for “Working Day 2”

5.13. For paragraph 22.3 substitute –

“Cafcass shall prepare a safeguarding letter if the application exits the Pilot Scheme and will file this at court no later than 3 working days before the FHDRA.”

6.1. After paragraph 23.1 insert –

“Pilot Scheme Procedure

24.1

In order to determine suitability for remaining within the Pilot Scheme, applications will be jointly assessed by a Cafcass officer and a nominated Legal Advisor (and/or nominated District Judge). The assessment will be based on suitability threshold criteria. The Cafcass officer will thereafter make the final decision as to whether the application remains within the Pilot Scheme once the Police and Local Authority safeguarding checks have been returned and the safeguarding interview with the parties has been carried out. A Cafcass officer may withdraw the suitability decision as a result of any subsequent information received.

24.2

Parties will be sent information about the Pilot Scheme by the court and Cafcass. Participation in the Pilot Scheme is voluntary and the parties may withdraw their consent at any stage of the process. If consent is withdrawn, the application will exit the Pilot Scheme. A Cafcass officer may withdraw an application from the Pilot Scheme at any time if in their professional judgment they consider it appropriate to do so.

24.3

Parties who have consented to participate in the Pilot Scheme will be invited to compete an online self-assessment survey, the results of which will be provided to an allocated Cafcass officer.

24.4

The Cafcass officer will contact the parties to conduct a telephone assessment and triage. Such assessment and triage is to be undertaken as soon as practicable upon return of the safeguarding checks.

24.5

If, following the assessment and triage, the Cafcass officer considers that the application remains suitable for the Pilot Scheme, the officer will prepare a package of structured interventions that are tailored to the needs of the parties. Interventions may include (but shall not be limited to):

(1)Attendance at a SPIP;
(2)Mediation (including where appropriate a MIAM);
(3)Supported or supervised contact referral;
(4)A Parenting Plan meeting.

24.6

The Cafcass officer will contact the parties to confirm which interventions, if any, the parties wish to utilise and will provide specific information on those selected. In the event either party declines to participate with any of the interventions, the application will exit the Pilot Scheme.

24.7

The Cafcass officer will assist the parties with booking the interventions.

24.8

Where interventions are provided by organisations other than Cafcass, those external providers will share feedback on the interventions with the Cafcass officer within 2 working days of the last session with the parties in accordance with paragraph 5.11A.

24.9

The Cafcass officer will undertake such further work with the parties as is considered necessary in their professional judgment to assist the parties resolve their dispute.  Such work may involve convening a Parenting Plan meeting, drafting a Parenting Plan or otherwise facilitating another form of agreement.

24.10

Any Parenting Plan or other form of agreement must be endorsed in writing by the Cafcass officer. This written endorsement must confirm the outcome of the safeguarding checks.

24.11

Once the Parenting Plan or agreement is endorsed, the applicant may apply to withdraw the application. The application to withdraw must include a copy of the Parenting Plan or agreement, and the written endorsement of the Cafcass officer.  The application to withdraw must be made by no later than 5 working days before the FHDRA. If so advised, the parties may include a draft consent order within the application to withdraw.

24.12

The application to withdraw may be made by email and not on Form C2 provided that the facts contained within the email are verified by a statement of truth in accordance with paragraph 2.1 of PD17A.

24.13

A Judge will consider any application to withdraw on paper and if permission to withdraw is granted, the FHDRA will be vacated. If the application to withdraw is received less than 5 working days before the FHDRA or if the Judge so requires for any other reason, the parties may be required to attend the FHDRA in any event.

24.14

If the parties do not reach an agreement, or if the application exits the Pilot Scheme for any other reason, the respondent must file a response on form C7 at least 3 working days before the FHDRA. The parties must attend the FHDRA and the procedure described in paragraphs 14.4 onwards will apply thereafter.

24.15

If the application has exited the Pilot Scheme, the Cafcass officer shall prepare the safeguarding letter and file this at court at least 3 working days before the FHDRA.

24.16

Where the Cafcass officer determines the parties are making sufficient progress towards resolving their dispute, but require further time to reach an agreement, the Cafcass officer may request that the FHDRA be adjourned to enable further work to take place. Such request may only be made with the consent of the parties and if possible will be made no later than 5 working days before the FHDRA.  Where this is not possible the parties or Cacass officer may request an adjournment at the start of the FHDRA.”

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