Secret Family Courts
Comments from one of our Supporters:
"Thanks, Suffragents, for posting our website on your Facebook Posts, I have over 5 years case handling and 2 years into my degree so happy to help anyone who needs a hand. Also the question, Default to mothers and the ignoring of the Men’s Human Rights in Divorce/Separation cases, you put to me is general but also complicated at the same time as there are so many variables that go into the answer, but I'll give you my broad view.
With residence, as it was known and I personally still refer to it as such, as the new name is more of a re-branding exercise as it is still highly divisive. To a degree there will always be division as you cannot split the baby so to speak, but I believe it doesn't need to be as high level of divisional outcomes in favour of one side as there are presently.
I think with the evidential standard of BOP, (Balance of Probability), I think it is a difficult one and a question I am researching later this year in depth to explore whether a third slightly higher standard of proof would be appropriate. In favour of BOP is the issue that a lot of DV (Domestic Violence) happens behind closed doors, and before it is even reported (men and women) often suffer for years in order to protect their respective partners out of loyalty, therefore the only evidence that exists is verbal. No crimes reported and some abusers have no history of crime, which itself can be deceptive. So in that instance the court is damned if they do and damned if they don’t, with children involved they tend to err on side of caution.
Other side is child protection, often the only evidence of emotional abuse is verbal, the testimony of the child if they are old enough or the testimony of professionals or one parent. Again, so in order to protect the child from harm, they again err on side of caution.
But on the other hand, women and men who are incredibly well manipulative can easily abuse this system, if they 'rehearse' for weeks the speech, pull out a tissue at the right moment, cry, tell tales which are difficult to determine if true or not, personally I can share one of my former clients, she was in tears, rang me how she had been abused but couldn’t get legal aid, I honestly believed her, but the moment I twigged on was when we drafted her position statement and I asked her to read it and check it is true, at that moment she "suddenly" told me she had been raped (no emotion, cold as ice), at that point I told her I could no longer help her. So I can see how professionals can be deceived easily.
The balance of probability is a mid-way standard between beyond reasonable doubt and reasonable suspicion. So, if correctly applied it should provide some safeguards to both sides. Sadly this is not the case as each Judge has his own personal compass of what they believe and will not believe (without arguing bias just yet) ie. A Circuit Judge in Nottingham will agree the BOP threshold has been satisfied, however another Circuit Judge in Newcastle will not agree it has been met... This is a problem, but what is the solution?
When Sir Munby, in 2013, took over the Family Division and introduced his draft proposals for greater transparency in Family Courts, it was revolutionary and a huge break from the past with new reforms looking to happen. Naming and shaming Social Workers from 2014 onward has been helpful, but sadly not many Judges will, despite the Guidance.
We cannot have Juries in Family Cases (just yet), as imagine the scenario, where a case is being heard in Nottingham, involves abuse and is found to be proved to satisfaction of jury, the man or woman is likely to be easily identifiable and has no safeguards, secondly juries don't understand evidential standards and how they operate, it is hard enough to get Juries to convict in the Criminal Court when the standard and evidence is compelling... So this is not a viable solution.
With Mothers often holding the upper hand in residence, the primary factor seems to be that they are the primary caregiver, which (in many cases) is true and I'm sure we, men don't dispute that factor. But when the relationship breakdown, the level of parental involvement can be adjusted, so the Father can be more involved with some extra support and effort and willingness of professionals, Fathers can also be somewhat primary caregivers... So the focus should be on getting both parents to a level of equality by Social Care and Cafcass.
Allegations must also be seen in context, if I told you I saw a Lion walking in the street last night, would you believe that? No. But if I said I saw a Lion walking around a Zoo, would you believe that, probably yes. Context is everything and professionals forget this.
Court delay is another factor, yes things have hugely improved, as when I worked in the Courts back in 2011, time between hearings was months and months, now the timetabling in part of the case management from the get go... so less likely that children will go without contact. Secondly a lot of fathers I have worked with will refuse to go to a contact centre while allegations are investigated, and the dogmatic attitude is not helpful, I often have to spend hours convincing them, bit the bullet, just do it and this is only TEMPORARY, and we can work with Cafcass if you listen to me. You will get your unsupervised in a few months. Some will refuse, some will listen and come out rosy with a substantial level of contact near 30%-35% a year. I mean one parent I worked with he went into a police station with his son and told them he was taking him away abroad and wanted to know if it was kidnap... he didn’t have Parental Responsibility... then created a mess. Spent ages convincing him to use the contact centre to build trust up, the mother was not refusing but wanted some trust clearly. He refused for 2 years and ended up with no order as the court just would not move, his own fault there.
Now the crux of the matter of 50/50... Most cases, 90% of separations, happen and never see the inside of a court, these parents are co-operative and reasonable, hence why they never even see Court. The 10% that do, 8% of them are very high conflict cases and Judges and Professionals take the view that the child is risk of harm if it's 50/50. The remainder 2%, they do order shared residence. Often the statistics branded around, that something like 80% people agree with shared care, is true but likely the vast majority are the non-conflict type who have responded to the question.
50/50 cannot always work, as often the man is the worker and the woman the housewife who does not work, so in terms of practicality the father cannot do 9am school drops, 3.15pm collections etc. Personally, I was in this position back in 2010, but then managed to change jobs, finding an employer who would let me work flexitime and took a pay cut, then went back to my ex and we managed to sort 40/60 without involving the court this time round, and it was hugely stressless and now we actually get on better than we ever did and I put all her ridiculous allegations of the past aside that were made about me. Some parents are just not capable of doing this. The system needs to provide therapist to parents when they are in court and when they leave court finally, to ensure parents get support to deal with negative feelings and help them get parents working properly. There is no funding for this and it enrages me. This is why I think Collaborative Law is going to be big... more and more Solicitors and Barristers are training with Psychologists to work with families 'round table' and sort matters without court, only using court to get the order binding.
With the 8% that is problematic, around 2% IMHO are true DV/Abuse cases which will need a lot of investigation and may end up with no contact as the Section 2A presumption is displaced in such cases; the 6% that do get contact will often be the standard type, every other weekend and a night in the week, with some indirect thrown in of a Skype/call in the week as well.
So why do many fathers end up with this 'standard' or 'little' contact?
Family Law is ideological and discretionary in nature. Some parents in the 'war' will be highly hostile with professionals and not engage properly, some are abusive, some will just slate the other parents left right and centre. Some just have no insight, I have heard covert recordings/transcripts from parents and think... oh my god... this persons Section 7 report is going to be a nightmare and he/she has just shot him/herself in the foot by ranting rather than focussing on the child/ren and explaining how the other parties allegations are not helpful and explaining how they and the wider family can provide the child.... when a case is contested the decision falls in the welfare checklist found in cha s.1(3), so all the parents have to do is read the Statute and talk about all the factors eg. educational input they can provide, the emotional support they and wider family can provide, how they will try to promote other parent, how they intend to put the past aside etc... but most engage in a war.
Now, do not get me wrong... some professionals are total a******** and will go out their way to lie, mislead, fabricate, lose vital info, etc... See my blog post on Facebook about the future of family law and how recording meetings should be compulsory just like CRIMINAL LAW. Civil law needs to provide safeguards to parents. This is something I actively campaign and advocate. Even court hearings are recorded, so why can’t Cafcass meetings?
Let me share a story with you about this tribe in Africa, they all believe in this ritual of settling disputes within the tribe. The elder listens to both parties dispute, encourages them to reasonably settle, if they do not settle, then the elder makes his decision using a chicken, who is fed poison, if the chicken survives, the party is telling the truth and if it dies, the party is lying... so how does this apply to family law in England and Wales????
It applies because, the elder will favour one party, the party who it does not favour, the elder will administer more poison to their chicken so it indeed does die... So as to bring about a socially desirable outcome. Similar to family law, an outcome is brought about because the Judge 'feels' its correct, so will find facts, professionals will bend stories, verbal testimony will be found to be true when it may not be, findings made against one party... and a judgment given. Where anything can happen. Outcomes are fully justified by "reasoned" Judgments given.
So does this breach the Convention rights found in the HRA (Human Rights Act) 1998?
No, because the way UK Parliament has implemented the Convention Rights, the secret lies in section 8 (1) Family life is NOT an absolute right. It is qualified upon reasonable interference being allowed... this is where the "reasoned" judgment comes in, that is the reasonable justification, so there can be no violation of human rights directly.
Judges are not stupid, so what they do is disguise "reasoned" judgments so they are not going to be stupid enough to say, mother gets residency due to the father being homosexual or being a male? Because that is a clear cut violation, they "window dress" the justification and you CANNOT dispute it on HRA grounds as it is near impossible to prove indirect discrimination... yes it sucks. I have only ever seen a handful of cases succeed in Strasbourg from my studies, one was a Portugeuse father who was refused PR on the basis of his sexual orientation and the complaint was upheld.
Fair Trial, Article 6, this only applies to procedural aspects, such as hearing both sides, allowing both side to cross examine, allows both sides to produce statements, witness statements etc... all procedural matters.
Lastly, with Human Rights, there is something called the 'Margin of Appreciation'... which means all signatories are allowed to use their own policies within reason, eg. if one country has public policy like we do, family law is driven by it and the European courts will not interfere with our policies unless they are "SO" out of order, which Parliament is careful to ensure it does not. And the Welfare checklist in s.1(3) is so discretionary and wide AND it has been held by the European courts that the Children Act welfare checklist is fully compatible with the Convention... so even European Courts are not willing to challenge Parliament. Human rights are powerful, but to be honest, very limited unless there is a clear violation which can be proved in law to a high standard.
So these 8% of cases where they are at war with each other, is the proportion that needs analysing in more detail, in terms of how best to handle them to avoid gross injustices, often for the Judge it is a judgement of Solomon. We need better intervention from professionals from a therapeutic input to address this 8%... this is another research factor I have in place to look into later this year in my dissertation and waiting for the Ministry of Justice to approve the ethics and rules I will have to adhere to in order to conduct these studies for my final law degree.
There is a lot of theory thrown around, some outdated, some recent, I read all of it, as my interest is Shared Residence and how can countries like Sweden manage to do it, but us here in UK cannot? So Comparitive Law research needs to be looked at.
There are principles behind the Childrens Act (1) non delay (2) satus quo (3) paramouncty... the status quo is problematic as it means if one is a primary care giver, that should be maintained, but not always strictly true, as a parent who works 9-5pm, in the evening will always have contact daily basis, even if it is to bath the child and put to bed, it is still daily... so status quo need exploring critically to see how true it actually is in reality.
Personally I was looking for a Publicly high profile-ish case, and I decided to take Jolly Stanesby's case and explore it in my blog on Facebook in terms of harm suffered by Rosy Stanesby long term, honestly have a read of my line of reasoning, it is spot on with the issue of shared care. We need a presumption of shared care, but with safeguards to protect children, of course practicalities need to be looked at, if a parent lives 30 miles away from the school , this would be a stupid idea to drive to and thro that distance x2 daily, but that parent should locate closer and then it should be feasible. A lot of this mess is down to Baroness Butler-Sloss, it was she who threw a spanner in the works, when the initial Norgrove Report recommendations and MPs were happy to implement shared care on statute, but she came in last minute and leveraged her authority, power and experience to scrap it. It was only passed by 4 votes, I think it was 210 in favour of shared care and 214 against.
ps. when parents are looking to separate, the man always 99% of the time leaves the house, he never takes the child etc...so little hope of being the primary carer as the law stands right now. I often tell dads if they are looking at a divorce, take the child and not allow contact until there is an order. effectively creating a status quo."
Suffragents: Pontefract is only up the road from you and I shall be there 24th June. Have sent a few people to your website, if you do not want me to do this please say so?
Supporter: "I shall endeavour to attend the event at Pontefract, I've checked and it is about 1 1/2 hours.
Normally we only get 2/3 calls a day, but since yesterday must have taken about 10-15 calls. No problem, send them through, 3 dads have already started the ball rolling to start their contact applications as a result.
Transparency in the Family Courts? #CPConf2016
I was invited to attend a Conference by The Transparency Project, which was held today in Birmingham, where various stakeholders in the English Legal System presented their research and findings within contentious areas of Family Law. I have to say I was incredibly surprised, it was well put together and certainly thought provoking.
The Key Speakers were:-
Opening by District Judge Gailey
Update by Dr Lauren Devine
Risk, Challenge and Social Work by Ms Maggie Silvester ISW
Surviving Safeguarding by "Annie"
Adoption European Perspective by Mrs Sarah Phillimore
Adoption without Consent by Dr Fenton Glynn
Press and Transparency by Ms Louise Tickle
Transparency Making it Work by Mrs Lucy Reed
Adoption Workshop by Parents of Traumatised Teens
Panel Discussion by Prof. Featherstone, ALG, the FRG & Ors
and a few others...
So, without boring you all, I'll go straight into it...
Sir James Munby was appointed to President of the Family Division at a time of Reform with the establishment of a Single Family Court and a much needed break from the past.
In April 2013, the President issued his Statement headed 'Transparency Reforms', recognising and determined to "break free" from the Public perception of Courts being saddled "secret" and "underhanded justice". This was a balancing act between fundamental rights, Right to Private Life (Article glasses emotion vs. Freedom of Speech (Article 10). Transparency is fundamentally important from the top and is a pillar of Democratic Process.
"Justice must not only be done BUT be seen to be done."
The Presidents Guidance issued in 2014: There needs to be transparency and public understanding, there are too few Judgments available to the Public, Judges are public servants... There is a "Presumption" in favour of publishing redacted Judgments of Circuit Judge or higher in certain cases:-
1. Determination of Significant Harm
2. Care/Supervision either made/refused
3. Granting/refusal of Placement
4. Litigant requests it
...This was qualified by "unless some compelling reason not to."
Social Work Practices were heavily criticised, I will not go into too much depth, but a number of Professionals and Academics had little faith in the Local Authorities Social Work Practitioners and their defensive Management teams, described as: (1) suffering from a case of the 'emperors new clothes', (2) there is an inherent culture of cover ups, (3) an environment determined not to see own failings (4) approbation (speak up as a SW and find yourself out of a job), (5) society fearing social workers, (6) ground zero approach (scapegoating), (7) lack of questioning of decisions made, (8) absolving oneself of responsibility, (9) mistakes made, (10) no second opinions sought other than managers tick box, (11) statistics system implemented mainly for politicians to quote figures.
There is overuse reliance on Agency Social Workers, who are generic, not specialists & without knowledge and worryingly having to look at "textbooks" regularly. Too many vested interests and managerial focused on deadlines. No one checking quality of work.
Independent Review Officers were shockingly biased or non -existent in some Local Authorities.
There was an open recognition among all the Professionals that the system lacks therapeutic provision for Parents coming out of "System", and only measures the cases that return back to the system, but not the ones that do not....What happens to these mysterious cases? No one truly knows.
The Government policy is in a black hole.
The Paradox of "Success builds on Failures". There is none of that in some areas, the SCR are just an administrative exercise.
A significant number of Social Workers believe "the Law is but an aspect of what we do".......This was frightening of how Social Workers understanding of their jobs....The correct response was to say "The Law is the road upon which to drive"....Meaning they must follow the law, but shockingly some feel they don’t need to.
eg. take the Analogy of obtaining a license to drive a car, you have to follow the rules and laws, you CANNOT say just because I have a license I can drive all over the place and run over people.
Frightening statistics were revealed, with regard to a hugely risk averse culture, 74% increase in number of Social services Investigations since 2009 - 2015? Did that mean the number of abuse cases rose? NO, they stayed fairly static and flat. So why are they investigating so many families? Hmm...
Now to the elephant in the room
How Transparent is the Family Justice System NOW:-
Ms Louise Tickle, working for the Guardian, a Journalist who said, she found it difficult to argue against accusations of bias, corruption and secrecy in family court hearings. She gave her reasons:
As a Journalist, she should be able to sit in on hearings, however struggles to get into hearings.
Even if she attends, she will not be given permission to report anything, so effectively it is a wasted time.
She could be done for Contempt of Court if she decided to report something without full permission and felt frightened.
To get permission to report a case, requires an application fee of £140, and fill out a complicated application form.
It took on one case, 8 x PRO BONO Barristers working 3 weeks writing arguments to present to the Court for JUST ONE CASE!! So the cost would be huge otherwise for press to report in depth.
The Local Authority involved in the Case (Newcastle) fought tooth and nail BLOCKING antagonism against everything including being named and the case being reported, eventually set a whole raft of conditions to exclude things so the case would make little sense to the Public in the Newspaper.
Lesson Learn: Can't easily hold Public Agency to account easily.
The Editors of the Newspapers DONT want all this STRESS for just ONE STORY! Completely understandable!!!!
Now the Legal Standpoint...Why do we still have this Secret Courts attitude over 2 years later :-
It has been 2 and a half years since Sir James Munby released his plans for Transparency. "Make it real". Guidance was issued in 2014.
Stalling of the Reform process, NOT by Sir Munby, by quite a few Lower Courts Judges. "fudging things".
Poor, unsafe implementation of the Presidents Guidance.
One Judgement was published to BAILII where the Child was fully named, admittedly an error by the Court and remedied.
Some Judges not even properly aware of the Transparency Guidance issued by Sir Munby.
Some parties DO NOT want their redacted and anonymised Judgments published at all (e.g. a father might object or a mother or Cafcass or Local Authority and then it is a battle).
The Limitations of the Guidance does not apply to cases heard by Magistrates or District Judges.
The Limitations of "unless compelling reasons" apply... this can be justified as its left to the individual Judge to decide.
Parties do not have appeal to have a Judgment published.
Parties being criticised by lower Courts for asking for a Judgment to be published!
Press are NOT bothering to engage as the process is a nightmare for them and they are being BLOCKED.
Some Judgments only SNIPPETS reported so the story does NOT make sense in the news as you cannot see the meat behind the skeleton.
Judgments for publication sometimes take 6 months to be approved by the actual Judge due to how busy they are.
If you have a Final Court Case before a Circuit Judge (HHJ title) then ASK for your Judgment to be published anonymizes/redacted in accordance with Sir Munby's Guidance... Let's see how many do????
End point... Transparency is NOT happening effectively, so until then the Family Justice System will be likely plagued with accusations of secrecy and public mistrust."
Comment by Suffragents:
We are aware that 90% of Divorces/Separations never enter the Court System and would make the following observation that when this situation arises a husband cannot access Legal Aid and cannot afford a Legal Battle. He may have gone for a ‘Free’ half hour visit with a solicitor and probably does not even know about Family Solicitors/Lawyers and when faced with the costs, gives up. Because of the high level of applications for Divorce/Separation being initialised by women and many quoting Domestic Abuse as the cause, coached or otherwise by friends or solicitors, many of these applications are awarded some form of Legal Aid, or when the Financial Arrangements are dealt with the woman will end up being more financially independent than her partner. With the current bias against men in Financial Matters, he will probably end up financially destroyed and this contributes to the 2,000 plus men who commit suicide each year as a result of our Family Court activities. He will also not have been told at his solicitors visit about being a Litigant in Person or using a McKenzie Friend. The Odds are totally stacked against him and he will end up as one of the 50% plus who cannot afford to go to Court.
The Magical Mystery... How do Courts Generally Make Decisions on Children Disputes?
When a Court is making a decision concerning a child and the case is contested (adversarial rather than collaborative), central to these arguments will always be the legislative framework contained in the Children Act 1989, mainly s.1 (3), which is known as the Welfare Checklist. The Court may direct an Organisation called 'Cafcass' to produce a "S.7 Report", where an officer will interview with everyone and evaluate the welfare factors through questioning and form a view. Effectively, the Judge has to conduct a balancing exercise to evaluate each parent and who is better suited to meet the Children Welfare Needs, assuming we are applying the somewhat highly debated Primary Carer Model.
The process could be expressed mathematically as:
P1 = Total (WCP)
P2 = Total (WCP)
Where, P1 = Parent 1; P2 = Parent 2; WCP = Welfare Checklist Points
Then the final equations can be:
IF P1(WCP) > P2 (WCP) = P1 is PWC
IF P2 (WCP) > P1(WCP) = P2 is PWC
IF P1 (WCP) = P2 (WCP) -> "Finely Balanced" Case
Where, PWC = Parent with Care; Finely Balanced = Full Discretion
So what does this mean in English... basically the Judge will consider each parental outcome in turn and evaluate them using the "Welfare Checklist" found in Section 1 (3) and accord them a mark out of 10, the Welfare Checklist Points. Then the Judge will compare the two outcomes marks, to decide the best parent for the Child and see which one should be the Parent "the Child shall live with". (Remember the Court will observe the Status Quo aka situation before separation of who was main carer and give it substantial weight). Marks are awarded using the "Factual Matrix" of the particular case (and/or the S.7 Report), which in turn is decided on the "Balance of Probabilities", ie. more likely than not to be true. Mathematically, we can say both parents have a normative position of 50% true / 50% true, one merely has to shift their normative position using "evidence" so it is tilted to 51% or above, and something becomes a fact proved in law, eg. an allegation of an assault. Remember, Criminal Law is different and requires "Beyond Reasonable Doubt" Evidence, eg. >95% likely to be true. I'm not going to go into the full rules of Civil Evidence here, but it can be Verbal, Written, Video, Audio, Experts, Photos etc.
Once that is decided then obviously the next question is how much "time the Child shall spend with" the other parent. Sometimes both parents will score equal marks, so in this case the Judge will look for "a single variable" that distinguishes one parent from the other, which in his view makes them the "winner", this type of "finely balanced" case is near impossible to appeal! Alternatively, the Judge may think both parents are "good enough" and the practicalities are such that a "Shared Care" time arrangement is suitable.
How are possible "Outcomes" evaluated, what is the magical formula?... Simple, See Section 1 (3) of the Children Act:
(a) the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his age and understanding);
(b) his physical, emotional and educational needs;
(c) the likely effect on him of any change in his circumstances;
(d) his age, sex, background and any characteristics of his which the court considers relevant;
(e) any harm which he has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
(f) how capable each of his parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his needs;
(g) the range of powers available to the court under this Act in the proceedings in question.
So how can you utilise this information to your advantage? Simple... written and verbal evidence...
When you draft your Position Statements, Witness Statements, Meetings with Cafcass and any evidence in Chief, you need to be mindful that you place the Child/ren at the Centre of all points you make, and how you will satisfy each of those needs found in the Checklist used to evaluate the Outcomes; all things can be influenced by decent responsible positive parenting and by isolating the "Views of the Adult from the Needs of the Child." Remember, ONLY the Child is Paramount, NOT the other way round!!! None of the Welfare factors are in priority, as per statute language, it is the Judges Discretion of what weight to give each factor based on his views formed.
eg. Emotional Needs: Will you be looking to exclude the other parent or limit their contact to indirect only, this can be justified in some cases but if the "Factual Matrix" does not support this, you will likely look like the parent most likely to not promote the other parent thus unable to meet the child's emotional needs. Put another way, are you in tune with what your child's emotional needs are? eg. If the Child is older and is asking to live with both, then are you aware of this, how will you make this work.
eg. Educational Needs: What can you provide to the Child to support them with schooling, will you sit down and ensure homework is done, will you read stories to them? Do you know what career your child is actually interested in pursuing? Can you acknowledge the other parents strengths? Can you physically actual drop/collect the Children from School at 9am/3pm, or are you at work? Can the other parent do that?
eg. Physical Needs: What can you do to ensure they learn about their bodies and health, eg. are you aware of your childs health? Does your child have a learning disability, such as Aspergers? Have you read up on this? Alternatively, if your child is into football, do you know this, what activities will you be doing?
eg. Wishes and Feelings: The word used is "ascertainable" so the Court will be looking beyond "words alone", they make look at closeness in supervised contact, they will look at reactions of the child in company. The other side is "in light of age", obviously if the child is 2 years old, it's going to be impossible to interview, but if child/ren are old enough, they will be interviewed for their views, are you aware of these views? Generally >10yrs old the views will be given considerable weight. Also remember, wishes and feelings change over time sometimes, so the Court has powers to make "incremental" orders where 'time spent' increases from day contact to overnight over a period of months gradually in tune with the pace that is best for the childs needs etc.
eg. Any Risk of Harm / Suffered: Has the post-sep familial relationship been coloured against a backdrop of Domestic Abuse? Has the Child Witnessed this? Has it had an effect? Are you accepting of your portion of the blame? Do you have the capacity to Change your ways? What have you done to address this? Have you addressed practicalities of how this abuse will not manifest again? Have you thought about handover practicalities? Has the Child been abused? Will you be able to protect them from harm? Do you know what harms the children are at risk of in your case? Again, all this comes from the factual matrix which should be decided earlier on in the case, to allow an evaluation of the facts later on in the final decision, again the impression formed by Cafcass will carry great weight, eg. if you completely slate the other parent this will probably backfire.
Remember, this is by no means an exhaustive list, it is mere guidance of things that you may wish to think about if you are going through Court Proceedings and would like to achieve the best possible outcome for your child/ren. Start reading up on Child Development if you have been the 'breadwinner' and had little experience/involvement in the Children's upbringing... after all there is no manual that is given with the child and every child has slightly different needs. Demonstrating cooperative and healthy parenting ability to Cafcass and Courts is imperative. You will get your chance to make representations to court if you don't agree with something (eg. a point in the S.7 Report) and also will get opportunity at the end to make Final "Submissions" just before the end of the Final hearing, ie. The Closing Speech. Lastly, remember Family law is ideological and discretionary in nature and all this will translate into a Final Reasoned Judgment, either reserved for later time/day or ex tempore off the cuff immediately, ensure you always ask the Judge for a Copy of this at the end of the Final Hearing so you know what reasoning was used to support the Final Decision made, for your records (also in case there is grounds for appeal in there).
Most importantly, read Children Act 1989 Section 1