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Normally, an officer of The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service for England and Wales (CAFCASS) will also attend one or more of the meetings. If it is not possible to reach an agreement then the judge will normally request a court welfare report. It is the CAFCASS officer's job to draw up this report and it will involve meeting with the child and the parents as well as other relevant professionals, such as teachers and doctors. It may also involve the CAFCASS officer visiting the parties at home.
Within about three to six months a further hearing will be arranged by the judge to explain the decision. In making its decision the court will consider, first and foremost, what is in the best interests of the child. This decision will usually follow the recommendations of the welfare report.
Recently, the Government undertook a review of the operation of the family courts with the avowed intent of reducing the time taken for residence arrangements to be decided. This led to a report in 2012 called 'Supporting separated families; securing children's futures' containing a new set of proposals.
A further consultation process led to the issue in November 2013 of a paper called 'Supporting Separated Families - Securing Children's Futures'.
More recently a child support calculator has been placed on the Government website to help people calculate the likely child maintenance payable.