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Cafcass releases new Parenting Plan tool

The Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass) has developed an interactive parenting tool to help separated parents co-parent safely and effectively.

The Parenting Plan has been designed to help parents resolve disputes over the care of the children. It covers practical issues of parenting, such as: living arrangements, finances, holidays, sporting activities, health and emotional care.

Cafcass has said that child safety and security are central to the revised tool, which looks to prevent disagreements from reaching the courtroom and having a negative effect on children.  The plan also contains strategies for improved communication following separation.

Anthony Douglas, Cafcass’ Chief Executive, said:

Resolving a dispute about the arrangements for your child after separation, when emotions are running high, can be hard to do, which is why Cafcass, working with our partners, has developed the Parenting Plan. It builds on the previous version, which has been incredibly popular with mediators and solicitors, and is intended to help any parent, whatever their situation, develop better communications skills, to  improve understanding of their child’s needs and equip parents to build a sustainable and adaptable plan.

The co-parenting plan can be completed individually or with both parents working together, and is also available as an interactive tool accessible online. The Parenting Plan is widely recognised within the courts as a valuable resolution tool.

The new version of the plan is released against the backdrop of a number of family law announcements and initiatives, designed to divert cases away from the courtroom, as outlined in the Family Justice Review. The Children and Families Bill will be introducing mandatory mediation for separating couples in April.

Edward Timpson MP, Minister for Children and Families, said:

Wherever possible, the Government wants to help parents resolve disputes about children in a positive way, without turning to the courts. I very much welcome this new plan, which is a real step forwards in giving parents the support and guidance they may need to do just that.

More information on the Parenting Plan and other useful tool is available on the Cafcass website.


The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Andrew says:

    Is it true that people managed their own lives in the years BC, that is Before CAFCASS?


  2. Paul says:

    Cafcass arose as a response to the clubbing of wives by cavemen, hence all allegations of domestic violence are true.

  3. Mike Taylor says:

    From the mid seventies to approximately three years ago I worked as a social work practitioner in the Family Courts; Court Welfare Officer, Guardian Ad Litem, FCA and Children’s Guardian, so I feel confident in stating the blindingly obvious that nothing much has changed in the nature of the problems separating parents bring to Family Court in Private Law.

    In what is nearly forty years two initiatives stand out as being really progressive and neither can be attributed to Cafcass. In my opinion Mediation, which developed from conciliation, and Contact Centres can actively make a difference.

    Many people resolve their problems themselves and perhaps online intervention may help but really it only scratches the surface for those in the system who are in big difficulty. Assessment is the easy bit but active intervention requires skills, experience and knowledge. All this at a time when many Contact Centres are closing or struggling to exist.

    There are always plenty of slogans such as ‘Putting the Child First’ and ‘Every Child Matters’ but in my opinion they mean very little without active personal intervention.

    I would like to see Mediation and Contact Centres brought together as a service so that parents and children can be offered something that has proven to work. Maybe the Cafcass Parenting Tool will have an impact but I know where I would rather put my money

    • Paul says:

      And in your forty years as a welfare officer, how many times did you advocate residency to dad and contact to mum? Once, or twice, was it?

      A separated father ought never to be obliged to see his children in a contact centre (without proper reason on hard evidence). Contact centres are no more than gulags, a tool of oppression.

      • Mike Taylor says:

        We seem to be taling about different things. Sorry you have the views you have about Contact Centres. What do you suggest should be in there place?

        • Brian says:

          If both parents are capable of parenting the children on a daily basis, there should be a presumption of share care. One parent should not have to run the gauntlet of false allegations and belittling in the Family Courts and the outrageous prejudice of Cafcass.

          BTW this tool is just the same as the old copy of Parenting After Parting. What on earth is the point of one parent completing it on their own? The father, sorry NRP, will advocate shared parenting and the RP (mother mostly) will advocate the prmary carer myth.

          • Mike Taylor says:

            In my blog above I was addressing the problems that come before the Court. I agree that shared parenting (which would need to be defined as to what that means for individual families) should be the normal assumption when couples separate. I have no idea how many families resovle their arrangements without recourse to the courts or how often the ‘No Order Principle’ is followed. It’s about a quarter of a century now since the Children Act 1989 came about and still people use the Victorian terminology of ‘Custody and Access’. It may seem like semantics but I would say that the language still reflects the way children and parents are seen and the assumptions that are then made. I’m not sure what part the Cafcass Parenting Plan Tool plays, if any, when thing have gone very wrong for families and the point I wanted to make is that there are, in my opinion, better ways of using public money if it is necessary for couples to go to court.

  4. k says:

    I come from a country where contact centers do not exist so there is an alternative. The result is that fathers are valued and more likely stay in their children’s life post separation.

    • Mike Taylor says:

      Thats good but I would want to have more details.

      • Mike Taylor says:

        Come on k. I would still like to know what country you are speaking of and its legal system or culture. There’s always stuff to learn.

    • Single With Kids says:

      You’re going off on a tangent here – the online tool is to help parents work out what is acceptable for the children. Contact centres are another issue altogether and used only when there is reason to think a child would not be safe left with that parent unsupervised.

  5. Single With Kids says:

    Many separating couples actually have very little idea about what is and isn’t acceptable / suitable/ or the best route forward for the children upon separation. Well meaning friends and family fill in the gaps with quite biased and totally incorrect information which inflames rather than helps the situation and suddenly cracks are widened and the children suffer. Terms like ‘contact’ make me shudder, but then “MY” children is equally as dangerous…

    Whilst an online tool will never cover all eventualiites and cases, if it helps gently guide parents into the realms of fairness and putting the children first, then it gets my vote.

  6. Mike Taylor says:

    Not too much of a tangent but just a little. My initial point was about the resources available to Cafcass and how it uses them. Fair enough some online guidance can be useful to parents separating but cannot, in my opinion, replace good face to face work with parents who really get stuck. Many situations are not about risk or harm to children but about the fallout from hurtful adult separation.
    Not all situations that arrive at Contact Centers involve risk and they (contact centers) can for many parents provide an initial step to the good provision for post separation parenting (with or without Court intervention).
    Some parents can handle separation and the fall out well but we are not talking about them.
    I agree with the point about terminology and commented above about the use of ‘custody and access’. All words have connotations.
    To be clear I am not against anything that can help but we live in an age of tick box intervention and lets hope we do not abandon those parents and children who don’t feel this approach works.
    There’s a lot more I could say about the use of slogans and interventions also what I see as helpful approaches to families but this is probably not the place.

  7. Parenting Plan Cafcass | Anakku Harapanku Dunia Akhiratku says:

    […] Cafcass releases new Parenting Plan tool […]

  8. João Costa says:

    While I can accept that the intention behind contact centres may be a good one, in reality, they are often used as a means of control and forcing a parent to give in. They also reinforce the perception that the father is not treated equally by the justice system.

    Use of contact centres needs to be the exception, not the norm.

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