Devonalds Solicitors Banner Image

Devonalds Blog

News and Events

New 'Pathfinder' model coming to Family Courts in Wales?

View profile for Mikaeli Thomas
  • Posted
  • Author

Changes are coming to Family Courts in Wales - What is the new ‘Pathfinder’ model?

Pathfinder is a brand-new form of family dispute resolution that the family courts in Wales will begin interpreting on April 29th. Its approach revolves around CAFCASS Cymru and combines the efforts of several organisations, including the police, mediation services, and those that specialise in domestic abuse, to provide families with the greatest level of support. Along with emphasising close collaboration with families, the Pathway model also guarantees the use of less combative language in court proceedings, so promoting a more collaborative, family-friendly approach to problem-solving.

To explain the process in greater detail, CAFCASS Cymru will undertake a Child Impact Assessment.  This is a much more in-depth information gathering exercise and includes engaging with the parents and other agencies where appropriate (such as police, the local authority or domestic abuse agencies). Above all, Children will have the opportunity to be seen and have their feelings and concerns expressed at this stage.

All the obtained information is gathered in a 6-week period and then the court conducts a “gatekeeping” hearing in week 7 – which means it uses that information to decide what steps are needed to happen next for that family. Where appropriate, families are supported to engage in out of court dispute resolutions which can avoid the need for parties to have to come to court at all. If as part of the Child Impact enquiries by CAFCASS Cymru, the parties are supported to reach an agreement, this this can be acted on without the need for parties to attend court.

In cases where families are unable to form an agreement, or where the CAFCASS Child Impact Report highlights safety concerns that necessitate additional court decision-making, the case is assigned a hearing date. However, in contrast to usual private law proceedings, the nature of the first court hearing that the families attend may vary based on the needs detailed in the report. It is also promising that the one hearing that is arranged under the Pathfinder route should be the only hearing, at which a decision is made.

Three months to a year following the ruling, an evaluation will be conducted by the courts and the agencies concerned to make sure the decisions made are effective. This evaluation will involve talking to the children and determining whether the court orders are being followed and whether further support is required.

The pathfinder route brings a quicker route to resolution, with a promise for the wishes and feeling of the child and those who have experienced domestic abuse to be heard clearly.

Should you have any queries regarding the above please contact us at any one of our offices convenient to you.