Glossary of Terms Used

Note: This page is for guidance purposes only, and will be updated periodically.

CAFCASS: Children And Family Court Advisory and Support Service. This is the organisation which works with children and young people and their families and then advises the Family Court on what it considers to be in the best interests of each individual child.

Child Arrangements Order: When parents can’t agree on where a child might live or who they can see, the Family Court might be asked to decide. The Judge will look at the case from the point of view of the child(ren) involved and make a decision setting out what the relevant parties must do. This replaces the former orders called contact and residence and, prior to that, custody.

Mediation: When families cannot agree about a child’s future arrangements, they may be advised to go to a Mediator to help them sort out their problems. The Mediator talks to all concerned and tries to help them find an outcome that they are all happy with. If this is successful then the family will not have to go to the Family Court.

Family Court: This is where Judges or Magistrates make the important decisions about children, young people and their families, in cases where parents cannot agree with what is best for their child(ren). It is NOT a Criminal Court which is where people go when they might have done something wrong. If you are confused or worried about about the Family Court, go to which explains how the Court works and what to expect. It gives lots of useful info about help and support, including free legal advice sessions with The Personal Support Unit charity in Bristol. Click on this link to see their very useful printable Pro Bono Advice Scheme

Parental Responsibility: This means all the rights, duties, and responsibilities that a parent has to a child or young person. A person or the people (usually the parents) with parental responsibility can make the important decisions about a child or children such as who they live with and what school they will attend.

Supported Contact: This is Direct Contact between a parent (or grandparent) and their child(ren) at an accredited Contact Centre where safe and secure meetings can take place. These meetings are monitored on a group basis by trained staff, and support is given to all concerned as necessary. This is so the needs of the child(ren) can be met. This is the service that is run by Bristol Child Contact Centre. 

Supervised Contact: This is Direct Contact between a parent (or grandparent) and their child(ren) at an accredited Contact Centre where the meetings are supervised strictly on a One-to-One basis in a private room where the trained supervisor sits in with the visiting parent and child(ren).  This type of contact is usually as determined by a Family Court Order. This service is NOT available at Bristol Child Contact Centre.


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